Hannibal Barca out to impress on debut for Joseph O'Brien

Friday: 5.25 Curragh
Heider Family Stables Gallinule Stakes (Group 3) | 1m2f | 3yo | RTV

The presence of Hannibal Barca, having his first start for Joseph O'Brien, adds significant intrigue to this Group 3 which was won by Leading Light in 2013 prior to his St Leger success. Indeed, he went on to win the Ascot Gold Cup the following year. 

Leading Light is one of six winners for Aidan O'Brien in the last ten runnings and Anchorage appears to be his main contender this year, although he is joined by 92-rated stablemate Sussex. 

Anchorage only won once as a juvenile, a Thurles nursery off a mark of 88, but he concluded his two-year-old campaign by finishing third to Duke De Sessa in the Eyrefield Stakes at Leopardstown. He can be lazy in his races and this sort of trip ought to bring about more improvement on his first start at three. 

Hannibal Barca, who was snapped up for 500,000gns at the end of his juvenile campaign, is a fascinating contender. After winning a novice stakes at Salisbury on soft ground, he was thrown into the deep end in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster. He did a lot more swimming than sinking in that and was only two lengths behind Luxembourg at the line, despite taking a bump shortly after leaving the stalls and being keen in the early stages. It was a fine effort in the circumstances, especially since he was quicker through the final furlong than the winner. 

The son of Zoffany is closely related to Fledged, who won over 1m6f at Nottingham for John Gosden so this sort of trip ought to be right up his street. Ground conditions should be fine and he still holds an entry in the St James's Palace Stakes and Irish Derby. 

Boundless Ocean was outclassed in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas when 80-1 but he won his maiden at Leopardstown over this trip and will be more in his comfort zone over it. You sense he could be vulnerable to something like Hannibal Barca though, and there is officially 11lb between the pair on ratings. 

Joseph O'Brien also runs Seisai, runner-up in a Listed contest against her elders at Gowran Park last time, while Johnny Murtagh's decision to throw the filly Lyrical Poetry into a race like this having only won a Gowran maiden catches the eye. Murtagh won the race 12 months ago with Earlswood.

'We've like him since the first day he arrived'

Joseph O'Brien is looking forward to finding out just how good Hannibal Barca is. According to the figures, he is the best horse in the race by a considerable margin. His official rating of 111 is 9lb superior to Anchorage and O'Brien has been pleased with what he has seen since he arrived from Brian Meehan's yard. 

The trainer said: "We've liked him since the first day he arrived with us and we're looking forward to getting him started. He had a little hold-up in the spring so that's why it's taken a little while longer than ideal to get him out, but we like him."

Of Seisai, O'Brien said: "She is a solid filly who is on the lookout for more black type. She got some at Gowran last time where she ran well and hopefully she can do likewise again."

What they say

Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Anchorage and Sussex
Anchorage is only just ready to start back. He's in good form but he will come on for the run. We think he'll get further than this in time too. Sussex ran well enough in Cork and seems to have come out of the race well. He seems to be progressing all the time.

Sheila Lavery, trainer of Global Energy
It's a massive ask but he needs an ease in the ground so that's why we're coming here. John [Lavery, owner] likes to roll the dice so let's see how he gets on.

Johnny Murtagh, trainer of Lyrical Poetry
I was very happy with the way she did it at Gowran. I'm looking forward to seeing if she can take the big step up in class in her stride. She has to improve but her homework has been very good.