Atomic Jones appears set to make his final start on Irish soil in Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas before heading overseas with the aim of winning the Hong Kong Derby.
The Ger Lyons-trained son of Wootton Bassett returns to the Curragh for the first time since striking at the course on debut and he followed up that game success by scooping Group Two honours in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown in his only other start at two.
He moved up to 10 furlongs in the Derby Trial Stakes won by Stone Age for his return to racecourse, but having only finished fourth on his reappearance at the Dublin track, he now drops back to a mile for his Classic engagement.
Atomic Jones’ trainer is hoping for a respectable effort at Headquarters, which could be the last time he runs under Lyons’ stewardship.
Lyons told talkSPORT2: “He definitely needed the run (at Leopardstown). He’s been sold to go to Hong Kong to go and win a Hong Kong Derby. It’s a race very close to the hearts of the Kwok family and is his objective.
“I should have started him in the first Derby trial, but he had a 5lb penalty and I was dissuaded from doing so. But for a horse of his size, we should have done, because he needed the run badly.
“We’re not going to have long left with him before he has to ship out to Hong Kong and if he was to finish in the first three or four of the Irish Guineas it would take a run like that for them (his owners) to be confident of him in a Hong Kong Derby.”
The trainer is realistic as to the chances of Atomic Jones causing an upset at the expense of odds-on favourite Native Trail, but went on to explain the thought process behind the decision to take his chance.
“I took a view that Native Trail was coming over, which left an open race for second, third and fourth,” he continued.
“If I ran him in the Gallinule Stakes on Friday he would have another 5lb penalty. He won his maiden at the track, he’s since won a Group Two, he’s in great order so I took a view to kick on and, especially with the ground easing, it will suit him.
“He should be hitting the line strong and he’s come on for his first run, so you’d like to think he will be knocking on the door without ever being good enough to frighten the likes of Native Trail. You are running for place money and everything after that is a bonus.”
Lyons will also be represented at the Curragh this weekend by Panama Red, who is a best price of 16-1 for the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas.
The daughter of Showcasing finished fifth behind Aidan O’Brien’s History in the Cornelscourt Stakes last time, but suffered plenty of traffic problems throughout the Group Three contest, with her handler confident she would have been right in the mix with the winner if handed a clear passage.
Lyons said: “She was all dressed up and couldn’t get out and she would have given History a fright if she could have got out.
“It was just a trial, but I saw enough to suggest she is in the right company to run on Sunday.”