Royal Scotsman favourite to supply Jamie Spencer with perfect anniversary gift

Donnacha O’Brien aiming for first Curragh classic as a trainer with Proud And Regal in Irish 2,000 Guineas

The first Curragh classics of 2023 take place over this weekend’s Guineas Festival with Jamie Spencer aiming to mark a notable anniversary in style aboard Royal Scotsman on Saturday.

Tipperary-born Spencer first came to prominence all of 25 years ago when landing the Curragh 1,000 Guineas on Tarascon as a 17-year-old apprentice.

A subsequent stellar career includes being champion jockey in both Ireland and Britain, as well as winning four other Curragh classics, and he has been handed the reins on Royal Scotsman in the 500,000 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas.

The colt supplemented into the race for €50,000 earlier this week renews rivalry with Hi Royal who finished half a length in front of him when both filled the frame behind Chaldean in Newmarket’s Guineas earlier this month.


Oisin Murphy again teams up with Hi Royal and he is another former champion jockey targeting his own Curragh landmark having never won any kind of race at Irish racing’s HQ before.

The 27-year-old Kerryman has four chances to put that right on Saturday and Hi Royal will be only a fraction of the 125-1 odds he was at in Newmarket when almost springing a major surprise.

Hi Royal didn’t help his chance by drifting alarmingly off a straight line on that occasion although he still had all three of Saturday’s other cross-channel challengers behind him.

The English Guineas was run on soft ground and the current warm weather has produced a very different surface at the Curragh.

Royal Scotsman coped with, rather than relished, the conditions at Newmarket and along with early interference, racing keenly, and apparently being drawn on the ‘wrong’ side of the track, it can be argued he ran a remarkable race to get as close as he did.

His regular rider Jim Crowley has been claimed to ride elsewhere allowing Spencer in for a potentially massive “spare” for a race he won in 2019 on Phoenix Of Spain.

Spencer’s famous waiting tactics could perfectly fit Royal Scotsman who is trained by the father-son team of Paul and Oliver Cole. Generous in the 1991 Derby is one of Cole Snr’s four previous Curragh classic winners.

“He left for Ireland on Thursday night, arrived Friday morning, has eaten up, so we couldn’t be happier,” Oliver Cole reported. “To do what he did at Newmarket, to pull for four furlongs, and then finish shows he’s pretty good.”

Aidan O’Brien’s record of 47 Curragh classics is unparalleled but his son Donnacha could saddle the main home contender as he pursues a first Irish classic as a trainer.

Proud And Regal drops back to a mile having run in a Derby Trial earlier this month. The move has paid off in the past. Magician and Mac Swiney managed the same in the last decade and no less than Sadlers Wells pulled it off in 1984.

Saturday’s feature is off at 3.40 and is live on RTÉ One.

Sunday’s Irish 1,000 Guineas, featuring an odds-on favourite in Tahiyra, is the second of two Group One prizes up for grabs that day as the French star Vadeni lines up in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column