That’s not the result we all wanted. Record bidding wonder mare Treve beaten. A rather disappointing fourth place – it ends the career of the two-times Arc champion on a slightly sour note – given the immense hype in the build-up to the race. Her scintillating turn of foot – not there. Instead she looked a tricky ride and Thierry Jarnet never comfortable.
The French jockey has been slated in some corners for this ride on Sunday afternoon. Rightly so, to an extend at least. He wasn’t aware of the pace scenario and the fact that the quick ground can make all the difference to bring back classy contenders who are up with the speed.
On the other hand he rode Treve exactly the same way as he did when she was so utterly impressive in the 2013 Arc. With the difference that this time she didn’t make ground on the outside in the same impressive way as she did back then. She looked a tricky ride for Jarnet in the closing stages too. He could never get her organised for a big finish.
Maybe she peaked a couple of weeks too early? Remember her stunning performance in the Prix Vermeille weeks before. Maybe it was the ground though. On the quick side of good, which seemed to inconvenience her in the past, seemingly didn’t suit on Sunday yet again.
But: she remains a two time Arc winner. A fantastic mare, one we’ll remember for a long time. An all-time great? Who knows. Let’s put away with this rubbish of comparing horses from different generations with the purpose to establish who is great and who isn’t. Treve has been a brilliant race horse. That is what matters and that is the way we shall remember her.
What a brilliant ride by Frankie, wasn’t it? He may not be quite as strong in the saddle as he used to be 15 years ago, but his brain works as well as ever. It was pure genius to mitigate the obvious disadvantages of Golden Horn’s wide draw; moving forward right away, on the far outside of the field. He avoided any hassle, kept the colt relaxed, got right to the top of the field without any problems and only seconds after the race started Golden Horn was suddenly in the best possible position.
The fast ground clearly helped him to float over the grass easily and effortless. The pace was good, kept him at ease, interested, but wasn’t too quick either. We know Golden Horn stays, and after the first quarter of the race I said to myself: he’ll be hard to peg back once he kicks on in the home straight. That’s exactly what happened.
The conditions clearly helped Golden Horn but it also helps if you’re the best horse in the race, I guess.
Credit where credit is due: John Gosden has done a phenomenal job with Golden Horn. He kept him well and fit throughout the season, campaigned him bravely and didn’t duck away from challenges. Now a Derby, Eclipse, Irish Champion Stakes and Arc winner – Golden Horn deserves the tag of a superstar. Next stop Breeders Cup?
Saturday 5.45pm – The race that promises to be the race of the season won’t be what we all hope it will be. The clash of Gleneagles vs. Golden Horn is unlikely to materialize yet again as the weather god doesn’t want to comply with the prayers of racing fans. The rain arrived in Dublin early Friday afternoon. Since then it was a mix of drizzle and lashing. It’s hard to see the word “soft” not being part of the going description at Leopardstown….
That’s the worst case scenario. But hey, this is Ireland! You can’t trust the weather gods. What about a bit of Indian summer on Saturday? Well, we’ll wait and see.
A hopefully more or less dry night should ensure at least that John Gosden feels encouraged to let Derby winner Golden Horn take up his assignment in the Irish Champion Stakes. Gleneagles – we can be sure – is going to be withdrawn by midday latest, should the rain persist.
Now, that might be sad and disappointing, but thankfully doesn’t mean that the race turns into a dull affair. Not at all! One could argue the rain adds to the intrigue.
Assuming Golden Horn runs, he’s obviously the horse to beat, despite his recent defeat in the Juddmonte International. No, he’s no superstar, though still a really good horse. It’s been his only below par run – if you can call it that way; a runner-up effort, beaten by a neck, in a muddling affair, which is what the International was.
But Golden Horn won the Derby and Eclipse in convincing style. The memories of him putting away top class Jack Hobbs at Epsom are certainly still fresh. Without the shadow of a doubt, John Gosden’s “starrider” warrants the upmost respect.
High class yet fragile – these are the attributes of Dermot Weld trained Free Eagle. He has been one of the start attractions on each of the last two Irish Champions Stakes days at Leopardstown. In 2013 he went off the 2/5 favourite in a Group 3, having earned dramatic quotes for next years Epsom Derby after an impressive debut win. However his hops where shattered that day…. by a certain horse called Australia. Subsequent injury problems made him lose almost an entire season then.
He came back after a year long absence and smashed a fine field in the Group 3 Enterprise Stakes on the inaugural Irish Champions Weekend. Heavy ground was against him in the British Champions Stakes subsequently, but after another lengthy absence he made a winning return at Royal Ascot to land the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.
While this form gives him a big chance in the Irish Champion Stakes, given that he probably wasn’t 100% at Ascot, and may well improve again, it is the ground that really worries me. Free Eagle is clearly best suited by fast conditions. So any rain must count against him.
Found is one of those horses I find difficult to assess. She has done well over a mile this year. Just beaten in top class company by narrow margins. She then stepped up to 10f and won in tremendous style – albeit only in Group 3 company. Personally I wasn’t sure about her stamina given her dam side not instilling too much confidence.
But question mark, more than anything else, is whether she is good enough in this extremely deep race. It’s by far the toughest test of her career and while the ground may not be a problem, I fear she’s likely to fall short over this trip against this classy opposition.
If you want, you can make plenty of excuses for The Grey Gatsby this season. He’s never encountered his ideal conditions, albeit performed still with plenty of credit on most occasions. But it seems that everything has to fall right for him in order to win these days. He’s out to defend his crown, which he won in such dramatic style twelve month ago. I’m surehe won’t down with a fight once more, but it’s been too many excuses for The Gray Gatsby now to make me believe he has what it takes to regain his title.
Cirrus Des Aigles has been a legend for a number of years now and there are no signs of him slowing down. His most recent performance when finishing last at Longchamp can easily be ignored as he lost a shoe during the race. He won the Group 1 Prix Ganay earlier this year though and judged on that performance appears to be as good as ever.
Whether that is good enough to win the Irish Champion Stakes remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: He’ll appreciate any single drop of rain. The more the better for him.
Fillies should find it tough in this deep field – however Jim Bolger’s hardy filly Pleascach can’t be underestimated. A winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, she has top class form in the book and acts on any kind of ground. However it seems she might be even better with a bit of cut in the ground – so any rain falling is hardly an inconvenience for her.
She has obviously a bit to find on official ratings, however may well be able to progress further. With conditions sure to suit, she rates a big danger for anyone in this field – in my book at least – and I feel she doesn’t get the credit she deserves.
The same could be said about Highland Reel, who is back in Ireland after a successful stint in the USA where he won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes. First time lasix and fast ground clearly worked wonders. But he won’t find the same conditions here for obvious reasons and is clearly an underdog.
What if – against all odds – Gleneagles does run? Well, it would mean we have at least good ground. And that can only be a good thing! As it offers the fairest conditions for everyone.
He’s been the star three year old this season. Overshadowing Golden Horn in my mind. He’s been ultra impressive as a juvenile and continued where he left of last year. Question is: what did he actually beat in those races since? There seems not too much high quality around the mile division in the current generation of three year olds, to be fair.
But you can only beat what is put in front of you. And Gleneagles has mastered all challenges so far – even when things went against him, as happened in the Irish 2000 Guineas. But does he stay the trip? Well, fair question. As a son of Galileo you would hope he has a fair chance to do so. Though his dam was never successful beyond 6f and the dam sire has a stamina index of 7.7f. Gleneagles full-sister Marvellous also failed to stay trips beyond a mile.
What does this mean for Gleneagles? We don’t know. Only time will tell. That’s why it would be so intriguing to see him racing.
Conclusion: It’s all hangs on the Irish weather and how much rain Leopardstown takes. The track usually drains well. A dry night and and a dry, warm Saturday morning later and we may have less of a problem with rain softened ground. Irregardless of that, Pleascach is the one I side with as I believe 16/1 is way too generous. She won’t mind whatever ground we get, has top class form in the book, is hardy and tough and is sure to give the boys a run for their money.
Will Golden Horn run? We don’t know yet. The ground is soft, and despite the fact that the sun is out, it won’t help to dry quickly enough. I suspect that the hot favourite won’t take up his chance here. But regardless of whether he is in or not, it should be an intriguing affair as not too many are suited by the conditions.
Well, Clever Cookie surely is. He’ll love every drop of rain in the ground. He is in top form, won two on the bounce and should have things the way he likes it. I think he is potentially overpriced, but also feel he may be tactically disadvantaged with his usual running style – he simply might get going too late. It could be difficult to peg back some others who are attempting more aggressive tactics.
I believe Snow Sky is a major runner here today, with or without Golden Horn. He stays further than 12 furlongs and might be actually better over two additional furlongs, but he proved his class in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot over this trip when he was very impressive to land it from the front.
He may not get the lead this time, but will surely be prominent nonetheless. That will enable him to kick on 3f out, turning for home. He has a bit of a change of gear, so may be able to put some lengths into the rest of the field at this stage. And one thing is assured – he’ll stay.
This Nayef son is a typical Sir Michael improver, he’s blooming this year. The ground of course is a question mark. His best performances came on a quick surface. However he used to win his maiden on bottomless ground with ease, so he is probably fine.
There aren’t too many others who appeal to me. Flintshire is a quality runner, but he’ll hate the ground. Eagle Top isn’t sure to enjoy it either. While Postponed remains one with potential but has never encountered these conditions before. Romsdal has yet to win on turf, though the filly Madame Chiang has course and distance form on soft ground as she was victorious at British Champions Day last year.
She is an intriguing contender. Track, trip and ground will suit. Her seasonal comeback run over shorter 10f in the Middleton Stakes wasn’t all that bad, however she hasn’t been seen since, which is a concern.
And what about Golden Horn – if he runs? Of course he’s the one to beat. His record speaks for itself and he has the vital weight for age allowance on his side. But the ground is a major worry. Yes, he won his maiden on good to soft, but he looked so exceptional on a fast surface – I’m worried.
Verdict: I’m prepared to take on Golden Horn in these conditions ans believe Snow Sky has a major chance. He shouldn’t mind the ground and tactically the race could pan out to perfection for him. He’s a big price.
Big surprise in the Oaks today – 50/1 shocker Qualify got up to deny Legatissimo the Guinas & Oaks double. That says, if you would have been brave enough, you could have got easily 100/1 for the winner this morning…. I didn’t, that is for sure, completely dismissed this filly. I got it wrong. But it helps to know that most got it wrong.
My filly Together Forever had not too many excuses. Up with the pace, which wasn’t a strong one, she got bumped 2f out, but I felt she was already out of it at that point anyway. Lady Of Dubai finished a fine third. I’m somewhat happy she didn’t win. I was very fond of her beforehand was slapping my face this morning when I saw the money pouring in for her, knowing I left 14/1 on the table the night before
Anyway, that’s the Oaks. History now. Let’s concentrate on what’s in front of us: The Derby!
4.30 Epsom: English Derby, Group 1, 1m 4f 10y
Golden Horn: Favourite, impressive winner of the Dante Stakes. as the key trial. I marked him as one to follow in my Horses To Follow article. Hard to oppose on form but question mark is the trip. I have him down as a 10f horse, though he might be able to stretch out to the Derby distance. Whether he stays the trip is not really the question, though, it’s more whether he’s able to stay it in a way that enables him to beat horses who are certain to get it.
Jack Hobbs: Runaway winner of a Sandown Handicap. Proved his class in Dante with good runner-up effort. Clearly not yet the finished article and fair chance to stay the trip. That says his dam hasn’t produced a winner over 12f yet. Likely to improve again but has to do so if he wants to go close.
Elm Park: Racingpost Trophy winner. Didn’t do anything wrong when third in Dante on seasonal reappearance. He’ll come on for that and I expect him to finish much closer to Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs this time. He clearly stays, will get the trip, but has to prove he can be top class on better ground. However if there is anything soft in the ground come 4.30 Saturday afternoon he must have a prime chance.
Giovanni Canaletto: Another one from my Horses To Follow list. Lightly raced, this lack of experience may count against him. But he looked smart when winning a minor race as a juvenile and his comeback run a fortnight ago was promising the way he finished from a poor position. He’s a full-brother to 2013 Derby winner Ruler Of The World and should improve for the trip. Like his big brother, he’s fitted with cheep-pieces for the Derby.
Epicuris: Group 1 winner in heavy conditions as a juvenile. Form doesn’t really work out, and not too exciting on seasonal reappearance when only 2nd in Group 3. Known for his problems in the preliminaries of a race and unclear if he can be fully effective on better ground.
Hans Holbein: Lightly raced Chester Vase winner. Probably needs soft ground and more of a Leger type. Big question mark whether he’s quick enough to win the Derby.
Kilimanjaro: Witnessed with my own eyes when this lad got the mark in a Dundalk maiden back in April. Won the Derby Trial at Lingfield since then. Fair type but I find it hard to see him good enough to win a Derby.
Moheet: Looked exciting as a juvenile but hasn’t fulfilled promise in couple of starts this year. He may improve with time and experience but the Derby distance looks very ambitious.
Storm The Stars: One of the more experienced individuals, yet he looked still a big baby in his races. Took him a while to get off the mark but clearly progressing and the trip is in his blood. Might be up with the pace and wouldn’t mind making all if needed. Very dangerous if allowed an easy lead.
Success Days: Progressive and impressive in Ireland this year. Likely needs it soft to be seen to best effect and very dubious stayer on pedigree.
Rogue Runner: German raider who won two minor races in his native country. May improve for the step up to Derby trip but very hard to see him good enough to land a blow.
Carbon Dating: Still a maiden, big chance to finish last.
Verdict: Ground seems key. If there are any soft patches in the ground I believe Elm Park must go really close. But with the ground probably drying out over night, I feel there are others races later the year which are likely to suit better. Golden Horn is top class and will go close if he truly gets the trip. But given his very short price is easily opposable.
I admit I’m not getting warm with Jack Hobbs and don’t see why he is shorter than a couple of others. He’s a good horse and may even develop into top class, but for now I have Elm Park higher in the packing order.
However it’s clearly Giovanni Canaletto who gets the nod from me. I have a 16/1 ante-post bet on him, but he’s still a 9/1 chance, which strikes me as too big – therefore I nominate him as my selection for the Derby. He’s clearly classy, has the right credentials on pedigree and first time headgear should help to settle and focus when it matters.