Ireland's classic season gets underway at the Curragh on May 26, with 11 colts declared for the Tattersalls Irish Two Thousand Guineas (G1) over a mile.
Fourteen of the past 16 winners ran at Newmarket in the English version of the race, with Rock of Gibraltar, Cockney Rebel, Henrythenavigator, Gleneagles, and Churchill all doing the double. Two runners from this year's QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas Stakes (G1) re-oppose—fourth-place Elarqam and sixth-place Gustav Klimt.
Mark Johnston's Elarqam made his season debut at Newmarket and finished 2 1/2 lengths behind winner Saxon Warrior. The Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum colt is a son of unbeaten champion Frankel out of 2004 UltimateBet.com One Thousand Guineas Stakes (G1) and Boylesports Irish One Thousand Guineas (G1) heroine Attraction.
Prior to the Guineas, he had not run since landing the Tattersalls Stakes (G3) at the same track last fall.
"We have no ground preferences. He's run only three times on varying ground," Johnston said. "The field looks ideal, and the horse looks in great order. There are four of Aidan O'Brien's in it, which always makes it a little bit more difficult. I have the greatest of respect for U S Navy Flag, who was a great horse last year and bounced back from defeats to win at the highest level."
Gustav Klimt prepped for Newmarket with a win in the Ballylinch Stud Two Thousand Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown. Prior to that run, the Galileo colt had not raced since overcoming a bad trip to win the bet365 Superlative Stakes (G2) at Newmarket's July meeting. Donnacha O'Brien rides for father Aidan.
"He was a bit disappointing last time but came out of the race well, and we're hoping for a better run," Aidan O'Brien said. "The race will tell us what we might do with him at Royal Ascot."
Aidan O'Brien has a superb record in the race—his 11 wins top all handlers and include seven of the past 10 editions.
U S Navy Flag, last year's European champion juvenile and winner of the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (G1) and Darley Dewhurst Stakes (G1), had a bumpy start to his sophomore campaign, beginning with a down-the-field effort behind Gustav Klimt at Leopardstown. He then had a bad stumble and finished fifth in the the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas, G1) at Longchamp. Jockey Ryan Moore retains the ride on the Kentucky-bred son of War Front .
"Ryan was happy with U S Navy Flag in France, and with fast ground here, he's looking forward to riding him again," Aidan O'Brien said. "Things didn't go his way at Longchamp … (considering)the circumstances, it was a good run. He improved through the season last year, and we're giving him another shot over a mile as his run in France was inconclusive."
The master of Ballydoyle also has declared Kentucky-bred Threeandfourpence, who finished just behind Mendelssohn in a Dundalk stakes race to start his campaign but has been thrashed in two runs since, and three-start maiden Spanish Point (GB).