Connections of Ventura Lightning expect to have a clearer idea of his capabilities after he puts his unbeaten record on the line in the Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh on Friday.
The No Nay Never colt is the most expensive horse ever bought by Middleham Park Racing, with the hugely successful syndicate stumping up 165,000 euros to secure his services at the Arqana breeze-up sale in May.
He has already started to pay back that hefty sum – making a winning debut at Thirsk last month before following up with an authoritative victory in the Ripon Hornblower Conditions Stakes almost a fortnight ago.
Richard Fahey’s charge travels to Ireland to test the water at Group Three level and Tim Palin, racing manager for the owners, is looking forward to the challenge.
He said: “The reason we bought him is because he did what we thought was an exceptional breeze. He is by far and away the most expensive horse we’ve ever bought, so our faith in him has been pretty severe since the moment we first clapped eyes on him.
“He’s done nothing wrong so far. He took a while to settle at home, as many of these breeze-up horses do, but his work has been good and he did well to win at Thirsk and won well in the Hornblower at Ripon.
“He might need to step up to seven furlongs and that could catch him out at the Curragh, but we’ll see. Hopefully he’ll be doing his best work at the finish and if he’s placed we’ll be pleased, and if he comes home in front we’ll be delighted.
“We think he’s a Listed or Group horse, which is why he’s entered in the Middle Park (Newmarket, September 28).
“We’ll find out a lot more about him on Friday.”
Ventura Lightning is one of two British-trained runners in a field of 14 – along with Archie Watson’s Guildsman.
Aidan O’Brien has saddled six previous winners of this six-furlong heat, including each of the last three – with Ten Sovereigns a notable victor 12 months ago.
This year’s challenge includes the highly-regarded Lope Y Fernandez – who has proved no match for the exciting Pinatubo on his last couple of starts at Royal Ascot and Goodwood. He is joined by stable companions Fort Myers and Mount Fuji.
Other hopefuls include the Ger Lyons-trained Leopardstown maiden winner Brunelle and Celtic Beauty from Ken Condon’s yard.
The first of three Group Three events on the card is the Flame of Tara EBF Stakes.
The standard is set by Aidan O’Brien’s So Wonderful, but she might not have things all her own way, with a clutch of talented fillies taking her on in the one-mile contest.
Joseph O’Brien’s Brook On Fifth won on her only start to date at this venue a fortnight ago, while Cayenne Pepper is a major contender for Jessica Harrington having won a Leopardstown maiden and a conditions race at Tipperary.
Harrington said: “She’s won her two races and this was the obvious next step.
“She’s stepping up to a mile and she seemed to stay well over seven and a half furlongs in Tipperary, so hopefully that will suit her.”
Joseph O’Brien also saddles A New Dawn, with Auxilia (Lyons), Azila (Dermot Weld) and Lougher (Richard O’Brien) completing the line-up.
The third Group Three of the twilight fixture is the Snow Fairy Fillies Stakes, in which Aidan O’Brien runs Goddess, Credenza and Simply Beautiful, Lyons is represented by Viadera and Weld saddles course scorer Mia Maria.
The most valuable race is the 100,000 euro Tote Irish Cambridgeshire.
The 26-strong field is headed by the Lyons-trained Psychedelic Funk, while there are two British challengers in David O’Meara’s Hortzadar and Fahey’s Zap.
Ado McGuinness possesses a strong hand, with Saltonstall, Sirjack Thomas, Aussie Valentine and Current Option all declared.
McGuinness said: “The horse at the bottom of the weights (Current Option) is interesting. We haven’t had him long (formerly with William Haggas) and we gelded him after he came into the yard. We were very happy with his first run for us in Cork and I’d be expecting a big run.
“Saltonstall is a class horse and we still think he’s nicely handicapped. With 7lb off his back with Gavin Ryan’s claim, I’m hoping he’ll run a big race as well.
“Sirjack Thomas could run a smashing race if he stays, which we think he will, and Aussie Valentine could nearly drive the horsebox to the Curragh himself at this stage! He was a little disappointing in Killarney last week, but hopefully he’ll be back on a good day.”