Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nephrite bounds into 2000 Guineas reckoning

Aidan O'Brien has his team in tremendous form as the 2011 Flat season draws to a close as evidenced by a particularly impressive performance from Nephrite who burst the bubble of the highly touted Born To Sea when landing the Group 3 JRA Killavullan Stakes at Curragh on Sunday in tremendous style, writes Elliot Slater.

Most eyes were on John Oxx's Born To Sea, half-brother to the superb Sea The Stars and a very taking winner of a  listed race at the Curragh on his debut seven weeks earlier, but there were a number of shrewdies who felt that Ballydoyle had something serious to take him on within Nephrite, who had also won on his racecourse bow when trouncing 23-rivals in what is working out to be a good Curragh maiden, and O'Brien's charge was duly well supported down to 13/8 to beat the odds-on 8/11 market leader. Even those looking at the Aintree races 2012 will have been impressed.

Both horses travelled well through the first half-mile of the seven furlong Leopardstown contest tracking the pacesetting Vault, but Born To Sea was the first to come off the bridle when driven in pursuit of the leader over two furlongs from home while Joseph O'Brien on Nephrite still had a double handful. Although Johnny Murtagh on the Oxx-trained colt led briefly inside the final furlong, it was no surprise to see Nephrite come storming by in the last 150 yards to win with a little in hand by a length-and-a-half, the pair pulling nearly three lengths clear of the third to give the form a very solid look. Fans of Grand National betting online should bear this in mind.

Bookmakers reacted by pushing Born To Sea out from 7/1 to 14/1 for next year's 2000 Guineas, whilst Nephrite was slashed from a pre-race mark of 25/1 down to a general offer of just 10/1 behind stable companion and Racing Post Trophy winner Camelot (6/1). Whilst this is far from the end of the road for Born To Sea (who could yet make up into a high-class performer), at this stage the market appears to have it right in suggesting that Nephrite is the more likely of the pair to hit the heights next term.

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