A’Ali is a hot favourite to add to his big-race tally in the Holden Plant Rentals Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh.
The son of Society Rock claimed a hat-trick of Group Two wins as a two-year-old last season, landing the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Prix Robert Papin at Deauville and the Flying Childers at Doncaster.
He signed off his juvenile campaign with a run at the Breeders’ Cup, where he was done no favours by the draw, and while he was down the field on his reappearance at Newcastle, he returned to his best with victory in the Group Three Coral Charge at Sandown a fortnight ago.
With connections keen to avoid taking on the brilliant Battaash in the King George Stakes at Goodwood, A’Ali was instead supplemented for Sunday’s Group Two prize earlier in the week – with Colin Keane taking the ride.
Ed Crisford, who trains A’Ali in partnership with his father Simon, said: “It was really good getting him back at Sandown and he came out of the race bouncing.
“I think the stiff five (furlongs) at the Curragh will really suit him. We were thinking about going to Goodwood, but we thought this race would suit better than the quick five at Goodwood – you can imagine Battaash coming out of the traps quick there and not catching him.
“If he comes out of this weekend well, we can look at things like the Nunthorpe and Flying Five back at the Curragh.
“Hopefully we can have an exciting remainder of the year with him.”
A’Ali is set to face six rivals, with Make A Challenge also added to the field by Denis Hogan following his Listed victory at the track little over a week ago.
Rapid Reaction (John Grogan), Southern Hills (Aidan O’Brien), Wheels On Fire (Aidan Fogarty), American Lady (Fozzy Stack) and Punita Arora (Jessica Harrington) are the other hopefuls.
The first of three Group Twos on the card is the Airlie Stud Stakes, which has attracted six quality juvenile fillies.
Frenetic is on a hat-trick for trainer Ger Lyons, while O’Brien runs both More Beautiful and Group Three winner Mother Earth.
Ken Condon’s Inner Beauty was fourth behind the latter at Naas a fortnight ago, but the Rathbride handler believes she is capable of improving on that performance.
“She’s a nice filly who has accumulated quite a bit of experience, which is an advantage,” said Condon.
“She won her maiden over an extended six furlongs at Limerick very well and just ran too keen in the Group Three at Naas.
“We’ve been happy with her since and if she can settle she could pick up some black type, hopefully.”
Aloha Star (Stack) and Sussex Garden (Harrington) also feature.
The nine-furlong Kilboy Estate Stakes is another intriguing affair, with the Lyons-trained Lemista, Harrington’s One Voice and O’Brien’s Lovelier among the eight declared runners.