Millisle has already won over the course at Newmarket
© Photo Healy Racing
With our domestic season not set to resume until next Monday at Naas, all eyes will be on the horse racing in Britain, where the stars are out in force.
After a relatively low key start at Newcastle on Monday, the quality of the action ramps up considerably this weekend with the first two British Classics set to be run at Newmarket.
The Guineas meeting is a three-day affair this year with the two Classics - 1000 and 2000 Guineas - due to be run on Sunday and Saturday respectively along with some great supporting races, while Friday's card includes the Coronation Cup.
The latter contest will be a real treat for racing fans as both Anthony Van Dyck, the Epsom Derby winner representing Ballydoyle, and star stayer Stradivarius, who would be dropping back to a trip he hasn't raced over since May 2017, are declared to run. Although neither may be able to get past the Godolphin-owned Ghaiyyath, who is extremely talented over 1m4f and could make every yard.
But it's the Classics which excite me most and naturally there's plenty of Irish interest, with Aidan O'Brien set to run four in Saturday's 2000 Guineas in a bid to win the race for a remarkable 11th time and fourth in succession.
His best hope, at least according to the current betting, is Arizona, who was last seen in action chasing home Pinatubo in the Dewhurst Stakes in October, when two lengths separated the pair, having finished nine lengths behind the same rival in last season's National Stakes.
A brilliant winner of the 6f Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, Arizona is seen as the main threat to Pinatubo when they clash for a third time on Saturday, with bookmakers offering no bigger than 6/1 at the time of writing - Andrew Balding's Kameko is next best at 15/2 and it's double figures the rest.
That's a fair assessment as the son of No Nay Never is just the type to improve massively from two to three, the long-held view of his trainer, who also believes the Guineas trip of 1m to be well within his grasp.
Throw in some scintillating gallop reports and it's not hard to imagine a personal best performance on his return to the Rowley Mile, but I doubt even that will be enough to bring Charlie Appleby's Pinatubo's unbeaten record to an end.
Pinatubo ended last season officially rated 128, which made him the highest-rated juvenile in 25 years and set him on a perch 2lb higher than Frankel, who was sent off 1/2 favourite for his Guineas success.
Pinatubo beating Arizona at Newmarket in October
© Photo Healy Racing
A six-time winner at two, including at the Derby meeting, Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and two Group 1s at the Curragh and Newmarket, he has been described by his trainer as being bigger and stronger this year.
In that case, his rivals on Saturday have got next to no chance and, while backing any horse to win a Classic at odds-on - 10/11 is the current best price - is fraught with danger, it'll be a surprise if this son of Shamardal doesn't oblige on his preferred fast ground.
Sunday's 1000 Guineas is less clear cut and Quadrilateral, the current favourite at around the 5/2 mark, having battled to win the Group 1 Fillies' Mile over this course and distance in October, is opposable at such cramped odds.
Granted, she won all three of her starts last season and can boast the best from of these, but she perhaps lacks the experience required - seven of the last 10 winners had raced at least five times — and might need every yard of the mile.
Besides, there's no shortage of classy fillies to take her on and it's highly likely that one or two will have improved enough from two to three to give Roger Charlton's filly a serious run for her money.
Let's start with the Ballydoyle contingent, which is set to be headed by Love, who thrived during a busy campaign last season and ended it by finishing third behind Quadrilateral in the aforementioned Group 1.
She was not beaten far on that occasion and the vibe coming out of the O'Brien camp has been a confident one, so she carries plenty of respect and is preferred to stablemates So Wonderful and Peaceful.
However, there is another Irish challenger to consider in the shape of Jessica Harrington's Millisle, and she'll be carrying my cash on the day.
One of several highly talented fillies in the stable, she was seen at her best when storming to victory in last season's Cheveley Park, run over 6f of the Rowley Mile last backend, and the way she finished off that Group 1 contest bodes well for her seeing out the extra 2f on Sunday.
While that's not a given, there's enough in her breeding to suggest she'll stay and that's a view shared by her trainer, who reports her to "have done very well over the winter" and has snapped up the services of British champion jockey Oisin Murphy - regular rider Shane Foley would have to quarantine for 14 days on his return to Ireland if making the trip over.
All the double-figure quotes about her chances are long gone, sadly, and 6/1 is the best price on the board currently. While that's not to be sniffed at, it could be worth waiting until the bookies' price war begins in earnest on the morning of the race in the hope of getting a point or two bigger.
Even better, we can back her with some free money by heading over to freebets.ie for all the latest bookmaker free bet offers and more.
2000 Guineas — Pinatubo @ 10/11 Sky Bet
1000 Guineas — Millisle @ best morning-line price