Sean Levey aiming to pull off milestone Curragh classic on board Rosallion in 2,000 Guineas

Luke Comer’s appeal against three-year licence suspension ends on Friday but unclear when verdict will be delivered

Saturday’s opening Curragh classic of 2024 could produce a racing milestone as jockey Sean Levey teams up with Rosallion in the €500,000 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Levey was the first black jockey to win a classic in England in 2018 when Billesdon Brook sprang a 66-1 shock in the 1,000 Guineas: he’s at much shorter odds to pull off the same feat in Ireland aboard the likely favourite.

The colt Levey rode to finish runner-up to Notable Speech in the English 2,000 Guineas three weeks ago faces seven opponents up the Curragh mile including his stable companion, Haatem, third at Newmarket, as well as a trio of hopefuls from Aidan O’Brien’s team.

It means Levey will have to overcome his former mentor who he joined as a teenager having left Swaziland — now called Eswatini — as a 12-year-old.


Several years at Ballydoyle, during which he enjoyed group success and carried out pacemaker duties in many big races including the Arc, ended in 2011 when leaving to begin a successful career in England.

Levey’s Swazi mother, Tini, has worked for many years at Ballydoyle as did his late father, Mick, but the now 36-year-old looks like being the one to beat as O’Brien pursues a 13th success in the colt’s classic.

Billesdon Brook’s Guineas is among six career Group One victories for Levey, who can also boast a couple of top-flight wins in France, including Rosallion in last year’s Prix Jean Luc Lagadere.

Such success has proved elusive in Ireland but Rosallion’s official 118 rating, 3lbs clear of Haatem, underlines his status as Saturday’s benchmark talent.

City Of Troy’s abject display at Newmarket opened a big Classic opportunity for the Richard Hannon-trained star who belied any doubts about staying the mile yet ultimately still came up short of Notable Speech.

With up to 12mm of forecast rain set to fall on the Curragh shortly after Saturday’s highlight, ground conditions enough to require watering in recent days should be perfect for a horse that Levey is likely to play for speed as late as possible.

Ryan Moore will probably be of a similar tactical mind on the Ballydoyle number one River Tiber.

Having looked to have the world at his feet after landing last season’s Coventry Stakes, River Tiber’s juvenile campaign tailed off with a pair of placed efforts behind Vandeek.

O’Brien has already expressed stamina concern ahead of his first step up to a mile on his first start of the season, although quick going would be a plus. Even as two-year-olds, River Tiber was rated Unquestionable’s superior but Ballydoyle’s Breeders Cup winner is proven at the distance.

Ultimately, Rosallion’s biggest threat might prove to be his stable companion. Haatem was almost two lengths behind at Newmarket and will have the services of Jamie Spencer to try and turn that around.

Spencer rode Haatem’s sire, Phoenix Of Spain, to win the Guineas in 2019 at 16-1.

“They’ve both come out of Newmarket well and I’m happy with them,” said Hannon who will bid to emulate his father, a triple winner of the race. “I’d like to think they are both going to the Curragh with great chances on their Newmarket runs and we just have to hope they travel over well and everything goes right for them.”

Levey and Hannon also team up in Saturday’s Group Two Weatherbys Greenlands Stakes with Shouldhavebeenaring.

A deep field of sprinters contains several Group One winners including the local favourite Moss Tucker and the popular grey Art Power who has been beaten just once in five starts at HQ.

Shouldhavebeenaring came close to joining the top flight in last season’s Sprint Cup at Haydock only to run into the progressive Regional who is also in the Greenlands line-up.

Saturday’s other Group race is the Marble Hill for two-year-olds where last month’s Navan winner Camille Pissaro is a big player. His stable companion, Henri Matisse, is a half-brother to Tenebrism and Statuette so is bred to be a player alongside the expensive Breeze Up purchase, Red Evolution.

In other news, Luker Comer’s appeal against a three-year licence suspension — imposed by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) after a dozen of his horses tested positive for anabolic steroids — wound up on Friday. Three days of evidence was heard by a three-person appeals panel chaired by Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

“Following the adjournment of the hearing on Friday, the panel has retired to consider the submissions from counsel for both sides and will deliver their decision in due course,” said an IHRB spokesman.

The IHRB also appealed against what it felt to be the “undue leniency” of the penalties handed to Comer last September by a referrals committee. As well as his license suspension, the billionaire businessman was fined over €85,000 and ordered to pay €775,000 in legals costs to the IHRB.

It is unclear when a final decision will be delivered.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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