Magical may yet defend her Tattersalls Gold Cup crown – and if so is likely to face an all-Irish challenge as Hughie Morrison remains wary of travel implications for sole British entry Telecaster.
Magical, who numbers last year’s renewal among her five career Group One victories, is one of Aidan O’Brien’s 10-strong contingent of the 21 still possible for Sunday’s Curragh feature.
Both she and Telecaster, however, have alternative weekend assignments – with Magical perhaps set to renew rivalry with Enable in Ascot’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes and Morrison admitting a logistical preference for the Sky Bet York Stakes with his colt.
The Berkshire trainer identified the Curragh race as a potential target for Telecaster, before the coronavirus pandemic precluded its traditional May position in the calendar.
He is reluctant to give up on the Group One but, deterred by the travel arrangements in force because of Covid-19 restrictions, may settle for York on Saturday.
“I think probably we’ll end up at York,” said Morrison, whose four-year-old was an impressive Group Three winner at ParisLongchamp last month.
“It’s not 100 per cent satisfactory going to the Curragh, but it’s a Group One – and we all aspire to those sorts of races.
“We nearly didn’t confirm him for the Curragh, but we just thought we’d have a look.”
At York, he reasons, he will be able to accompany Telecaster throughout – unlike in Ireland.
He said: “We’re quite keen for things to change over there really – I’m not particularly comfortable with the quarantine rules.
“They’re surmountable, but I don’t think any of us is particularly comfortable handing your horse over to somebody you don’t know. When you don’t know people, it’s difficult to pass on messages in the same way.
“If it was a Group Two, we definitely wouldn’t be looking at it. It’s a Group One, out of season as such – it’s usually in May, and that was our original target all winter.
“We were going to go to Sandown, and then we were going to go to the Curragh. That was the plan, if everything had gone as we hoped.
“By leaving him in (at the Curragh), we’ve just kept our options open a bit.”
Telecaster might even have found himself facing Magical at Ascot this weekend.
“I think everybody misses the point about the King George,” Morrison added.
“You don’t spend five grand to have a look. If it had been a thousand pounds, we’d have had a look.”
Should Telecaster travel to Ireland after all, he is sure to face a significant challenge – from Ballydoyle especially.
Magical leads O’Brien’s squad, and her stablemates among the entries include last year’s Juddmonte International hero Japan, plus 2019 Epsom and Irish Derby winners Anthony Van Dyck and Sovereign.
However, all four plus Group One globetrotter Magic Wand and Sir Dragonet could yet go to Ascot.
Irish 2,000 Guineas fourth Armory, Irish Derby second Tiger Moth, Epsom also-ran Vatican City and Royal Dornoch – all three-year-olds – are entered for O’Brien solely at the Curragh.
Joseph O’Brien also has a strong hand in prospect, with Buckhurst, Numerian, Latrobe and Crossfirehurricane.
Dermot Weld has two to pick from in Maria Christina and Search For A Song, winner of last year’s Irish St Leger but pulled up last time out.
Jessica Harrington has also entered two in Mooresbridge Stakes winner Leo De Fury and Ancient Spirit, who finished second in the Meld on his latest run.
Kevin Prendergast’s Madhmoon, who was second to Anthony Van Dyck at Epsom, could make his seasonal bow, while Ken Condon’s Trais Fluors is also in the mix.