Irish sprinting towards Arc day
The extent of the Irish challenge in Sunday week's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe has yet to be clarified, but Gordon Lord Byron and Maarek will spearhead a potent sprinting delegation on the exclusive supporting card at Longchamp.
In recent years, the speed discipline has been lit up by unlikely heroes from unexpected sources, with Sole Power's 100/1 Nunthorpe coup for Eddie Lynam and Wayne Lordan initiating a minor revolution in 2010.
In 2012, Tom Hogan took Gordon Lord Byron to France, and the €2,000 gelding bagged a famous Prix de la Foret triumph for William Buick.
Fresh from securing a second Group One and 10th win in all at the expense of Lynam's Slade Power in Haydock's Sprint Cup, Gordon Lord Byron is on schedule to attempt to become the first speedster to claim back-to-back successes in the seven-furlong contest for 32 years.
"Everything is spot on for the Foret," Nenagh-based Hogan confirmed of his five-year-old stable star. "He's in great form. He did a very good piece of work on Tuesday morning; it was his first bit of work since he won at Haydock."
Lending further substance to the 'David and Goliath' theme in Paris will be Maarek, which was bought as an unraced three-year-old for £2,500 out of John Gosden's in 2010.
The mud-lover would go on to win nine times for Fethard handler David Nagle before he and Nagle's assistant, Evanna McCutcheon recently transferred to the nearby stable of Barry Lalor.
Maarek provided Lalor with his first winner on the track when taking a five-furlong Group Three at Newbury in fine style last Saturday, and a tilt at the Group One Prix de l'Abbaye is now on the agenda.
"He has bounced out of the race well, eaten up and travelled home fantastic," reported McCutcheon.
"Hopefully, we'll take on the big boys in Longchamp in the Abbaye. The ground was soft there last weekend and there's more rain forecast, so every bit will be very much welcome."
Gordon Lord Byron, Maarek and Sole Power are all geldings with no ancillary breeding value, but boast a staggering combined prize money yield of €2.2m.
Sole Power, third in last month's Nunthorpe after swooping to his second top-level success under an inspired Johnny Murtagh in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, is expected to join Maarek in the Abbaye, a breathtaking five-furlong dash in which he fell just a head short two years ago.
Tomorrow, Paul Deegan and Pat Fahy will endeavour to add their names to the Group One roll of honour. Avenue Gabriel and Ballybacka Queen, first and second in a Curragh Listed race two weeks ago, will be their respective runners in the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket.