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Sacred Bridge on fact-finding mission at Leopardstown

Connections of Sacred Bridge expect to have a clearer idea of her potential ambitions for the rest of the season after Saturday’s Ballylinch Stud “Priory Belle” 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown.

The daughter of Bated Breath looked every inch a top-class filly in the making in winning her first four starts as a juvenile, but failed to fire when a hot favourite for the Cheveley Park at Newmarket.

She makes her seasonal reappearance and tackles seven furlongs for the first time this weekend, with her team unsure whether to aim for a Guineas or go back sprinting.

Barry Mahon, general manager Ireland and European racing for owner-breeders Juddmonte, said: “She’s in good form. She hasn’t changed much from two to three, but she’s training well and showing the same spark as she did last year.

“I’d say she’d just gone over the top by the time she ran in the Cheveley Park. Her coat had gone and she got a bit sweaty and a bit antsy, which she hadn’t done before any of her previous runs.

“This is a good starting point for her. She excelled over six furlongs last year and we’re a little bit uncertain trip-wise, but she’s fit and well and all the team in Glenburnie are happy.

“Hopefully she’ll run a nice race and it will tell us where we’re going in the future. We hope we’ll have more answers after Saturday.”

The Juddmonte camp will also have one eye on how Agartha performs in the Group Three contest, with the Joseph O’Brien-trained filly having beaten Sacred Bridge’s stablemate and fellow Juddmonte-owned runner Juncture in the Silver Flash Stakes at Leopardstown last year.

Juncture made a hugely impressive return at Dundalk in early March and is also likely to test the water in a Guineas trial in the coming weeks.

Mahon added: “I think at the minute the most obvious route for her is to go for the second Guineas trial in Leopardstown.

“She’s only rated 98. Even though she won quite impressively in Dundalk, the form is probably not the strongest, so we’ll go for the second trial in Leopardstown at the beginning of May.

“If she was to perform well there, that could lead us on to the Irish Guineas.”

Declan McDonogh and Agartha after winning the Debutante Stakes
Declan McDonogh and Agartha after winning the Debutante Stakes (Niall Carson/PA)

Following her defeat of Juncture in July, Agartha went on to win the Debutante Stakes at the Curragh before finishing second and fourth in two Group Ones.

She appears the leading hope of three runners for O’Brien along with Seisai and Pennine Hills.

“Agartha won over the course and distance last year and Seisai ran well in most of them fillies races and won a Stakes race – she’s a good, solid filly,” said the trainer.

“Pennine Hills ran well over that course and distance as well last year. I’m happy with them all.”

Other contenders include Lyons-trained course and distance winner Panama Red, Aidan O’Brien’s Contarelli Chapel and Homeless Songs from Dermot Weld’s yard.

O’Brien senior is responsible for three of the eight runners declared for the Ballylinch Stud “Red Rocks” 2,000 Guineas Trial.

Glounthaune won the Killavullan Stakes over the course and distance last year and makes his first appearance since finishing down the field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November.

O’Brien, who also saddles Howth and The Acropolis, said: “Glounthaune is going very well and showing plenty of pace.

“America (Breeders’ Cup) was probably too quick for him. Ryan (Moore) said he couldn’t get him organised and he was too green on the track, but he’s going well.

“We were playing catch-up all last season, he’s a big horse, but he could be one for the French Guineas.”

The highest-rated runner is Dr Zempf, who was second in the Phoenix Stakes for Lyons last year.

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