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Burke challenger adds intrigue to sprint

Wednesday: 5.50 Naas
Arqana Irish EBF Marwell Stakes (Listed) | 5f | 2yo | RTV

There was a touch of star quality about Pennine Hills's impressive Fairyhouse debut a fortnight ago and this Listed event, won by Miss Amulet 12 months ago, looks an ideal stepping stone towards potential top-level targets later in the season.

Concert Hall, who was runner-up to the Joseph O'Brien-trained juvenile on her first start, has boosted that Fairyhouse form by registering a battling success at the Curragh on Sunday, strengthening the suggestion that Pennine Hills could be very classy indeed.

Four of the six runners have visited the winner's enclosure and all have more experience under rules than the speedy Kodiac filly, although she does have the benefit of a previous barrier trial success at Dundalk.

Her main dangers could well prove to be the 1-2 from a recent Tipperary maiden where the promising Johnny Murtagh-trained Ladies Church edged out Donnacha O'Brien's Orinoco River, a filly who wasn't disgraced finishing eighth in the Queen Mary when drawn on the less favoured side.

Impeachd Alexander, representing Jessica Harrington, was an eyecatcher on her Cork introduction before putting that experience to good use when striking at the same venue six weeks ago. She looks a likely candidate to take another step forward with two runs behind her.

There's also added intrigue through the presence of the Karl Burke-trained Sophie's Star, who brings plenty of experience to the table having won twice from her six starts, albeit at a lower level than this.

If Pennine Hills is capable of seeing off these more battle-hardened rivals, then we'll know that we're dealing with a genuinely exciting two-year-old.

What they say
Jessica Harrington, trainer of Impeachd Alexander
She's in great form and I'm delighted with her. She's won on quick ground before and I think bringing her back to five furlongs will help her. She only just got home the last day.

Donnacha O'Brien, trainer of Orinoco River
She's always worked like quite a talented filly and I think we probably rode her the wrong way last time, when she got nabbed. We'll take our time with her and hopefully she can run a good race.

Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Pennine Hills
She's in good shape and came through her maiden win well, but the slight drop in trip is not ideal and we're hoping for a good run. Hopefully she can pick up some black type.

Karl Burke, trainer of Sophie's Star
She's tough, reliable and has improved with every run. She travelled overnight there well, so hopefully she can put up a good show and get some black type, which is exactly what we're looking for. There's not many five-furlong Listed races for two-year-olds in the UK and it was one that was flagged up with not many entries – I could have run two in this. It's a really nice opportunity.

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