Tag Archives: Irish Champion Stakes

Sunday Selections: 10th September 2017

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Not all that often at Leopardstown you do see a horse swinging wide around the home bend trailing the field and then going on to win in impressive style. Yet Decorated Knight did exactly that….. from last to first – and in doing so landed the Irish Champions Stakes!

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. How could this lad go off at 25’s? He was full well entitled to have a big shout as the second highest rated individual in the field thanks to a Tattersalls Gold Cup success and a subsequent runner-up effort in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

Credit to Andre Atzeni, who rode Decorated Knight to perfection, utilizing his turn of foot in the best possible way.

Odds-on favourite Churchill finished a disappointing 7th. Things got a bit messy in the home straight but that did not make too much of a difference. He was not good enough on the day. Maybe it was one race too many?

That ended the day with a rather shocking result for me punting wise too. 0 from 4, not a single one in the money. A day too forget…. albeit the brilliant performance by Decorated Knight may not be forgotten anytime soon.

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5.55 Curragh: Handicap, 1m 2f

The lucky last on Irish St. Leger day, an open contest where any more rain will not suit too many. However improving 3yo filly Jet Streaming will love any additional drop of rain over the course of the afternoon.

The lightly raced daughter of Born To Sea won impressively at the Galway Festival last month. Despite not breaking cleanly, being a bit too keen subsequently, and travelling off the pace in rear, she managed to motor home in the short straight to get up on the line.

It’s clear that Jet Streaming is crying out for a step up in trip. On pedigree this should work well too. She’s 2lb wrong in the weights, however given her progressive profile, ground and trip potentially in her favour, this should not make a difference.

With a good draw and from the lower end of the weight scale I reckon the Adrian Keatley trained filly has a cracking chance to land a big pot today.

Selection:
10pts win – Jet Streaming @ 7/1 PP

Saturday Selections: Irish Champion Stakes Day 2017

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1.50 Haydock: Ascendant Stakes (Listed), 1m

Some interesting contenders here; soft ground winners Dee Ex Bee and Dark Acclaim make plenty of appeal. I, however, think Godolphin’s Dubhe looks one with a massive amount of improvement to come.

He left a fair debut behind when landing a maiden in soft conditions at Sandown. While that was not a true test and he holding the advantage as the sole front-runner, the fact that he won easily going away in the end in a sprint finish, while it looks abundantly clear that he needs further sooner rather than later, was impressive.

He stays over the mile trip, which in heavy conditions with potentially a quicker pace should suit him down to the grounds to play out class and stamina.

Superbly bred, by Dubawi out of Irish Oaks winner Great Heavens, I feel he takes plenty of beating and therefore Dubhe is a tasty price.

Selection:
10pts win – Dubhe @ 5/1 Bet365

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5.05 Leopardstown: Group 3 Enterprise Stakes, 1m 4f

Eziyra is a fair favourite given her impressive form this season to make it back to back wins for trainer Dermot Wel. Though, Spanish Step has won a Group 3 earlier this season and has a fair shout here too.

That says stable mate and former Derby runner-up US Army Ranger is the x-factor in the race.

He drops in class and trip, and this combination should see him go very close judged on ratings. Yes, he has been a major disappointment ever since coming close to land the big prize at Epsom, however he still ran to a time speed rating of 94 when last seen, which is still the best in this field.

Selection:
10pts win – US Army Ranger @ 6/1 Bet365

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5.35 Leopardstown: Group 1 Matron Stakes, 1m

The class act is Winter. If all goes to plan she wins. She has a top draw and the bit of rain that may leave a bit of softness in ground won’t bother her.

In my mind she can only be beaten if the long season has left a mark on her. Then the French raider Qemah comes into the equation. Her wide draw is an issue, nonetheless she remains a big price and has a better chance.

The winner of last years Coronation Stakes had a light campaign up until now, won at Royal Ascot earlier this season and was an unlucky 4th behind Roly Poly in the Prix Rothschild when last seen.

At her best, and if she can overcome the draw disadvantage with the magic man in the saddle, she has a chance to trouble Winter.

Selection:
10pts win – Qemah @ 7/1 Bet365

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6.45 Leoapardstown: Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, 1m 2f

Twelve months ago it was the race of the races – something we racing fans hope for but see not enough of: the best take on the best. On the flat the best often try to avoid each other, if possible. The Irish Champion Stakes stood true to its name in 2016, though, and saw the best battle it out with the very best.

This year looked for a while a slightly underwhelming race in prospect. The stars of last year are either under performing or retired. However the week leading up to the big enjoyed a timely boost with the conformation of smart Eminent giving it a go against the almighty Churchill.

Eminent has enhanced his credentials with an impressive front-running performance in a Group 2 over 10 furlongs at Deavuille last month, after three winless efforts at the highest level. Is he quite up to the standard required to beat Churchill? We find out today.

The dual Guineas winner proved satisfactory his stamina when runner-up in the Juddmonte International. So neither ground nor trip hold any fear for the highest rated individual in this field.

He’s got the perfect draw and the help of one or two stable mates likely setting a good pace – I find it hard to look beyond him, to be honest. Yes, Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Decorated Night, or stable mate and Derby second Cliffs Of Moher are fine horses in their own right. But this looks all set for another Group 1 victory for Churchill.

Selection:
10pts win – Churchill @ 11/10 PP

Preview: Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

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Arc Day! The most prestigious flat race in Europe, maybe the world, is finally upon us The search for a new champion begins right here.

The Arc, that is a special race for me personally. On one hand it clearly marks the end of the flat season – yes, there is still some racing to go, but let’s make no mistake: the calendar turned to October, the nights are chilly again and the jumpers are out at Gowran Park. Winter is coming….

Arc Day: it’s a special day also because it brings back wonderful memories. Now, I can’t claim to follow the sport of horse racing for decades. Though it’s closing in on ten years actually – time’s flying! But I witnessed Sea The Stars winning the race, bringing the house down on an unbelievable summer of racing that captivated my heart like no other ever did.

Only two years later the German filly Danedream sprinted to a sensational success in Europe’s premier flat race – I had a big ante-post wager on her at massive odds, to this date the biggest monetary win of my illustrious betting career.

Arc 2016: A Decent Renewal?

The general perception leading up to the big race seems one of muted excitement. Some suggest this year’s Arc is a rather sub-standard renewal. I don’t buy that. In fact the 2016 Arc boosts as big a field as ever, with runners from all over world, with more than a handful of those rated at 120+, not for forget a favourite who has won three big Group one races on the bounce this season. Oh the reigning dual English & Irish Derby winner is here too! Not too shabby in my book.

Conditions Today

Reportedly perfect conditions at Chantilly today, where the Arc is run during the re-building process at Longchamp. Chantilly is known as a course that throws up plenty of hard luck stories, so with a big field of 16 runners it seems inevitable that some connections might feel unlucky in the aftermath of the race.

Genuine good ground should provide a level playing field for all horses on that particular front at least, though.

High Draw = Race Lost?

A race over 1 mile 4 furlongs, yet the draw is always a big talking point on Arc day. Of course it is, because if your drawn in the car park it makes your task so much more difficult. On the other hand those horses who need to be dropped in anyway mightn’t be too dramatically inconvenienced. Nonetheless if you’re forced to travel four, five wide throughout a 2.400m contest, chances are you won’t find the extra gear needed for a strong finish.

That says, for those who like to attack a race from the start, the wide draw must not be an issue at all. At Chantilly you have an early left-hand turn, which in theory should mean you can make up ground more easily from a wide draw – if you chose to attempt it.

Two well fancied runners – the Japanese Makahiki and Found – have been drawn rather wide. It makes their bid for glory the bit more difficult.

Found won’t mind it as she is likely to race off the pace anyway, though she is likely to encounter plenty of traffic and given her history (“the most unlucky filly in the world”) I am concerned that she does not get out in time today.

Makahiki, the excellent winner of the Prix Niel, is a more diverse story. Drawn in 14, I would expect jockey Lemaire to try to make a move right from the start in order to get a handy position somewhere in midfield while finding valuable cover as well. Though this could be a difficult thing to achieve, given plenty of jockeys on lower drawn horses will have the same tactics in mind. Therefore I can see a scenario where Lemaire has to commit too much too early or alternatively will end up in a really poor position on the widest outside.

Favourite Postponed will have every chance to find the right spot from stall seven. He has no problem to be ridden positively and he could end up in fifth, sixth position behind the pace. Dual Derby winner Harzand is drawn right beside him. It’ll be interesting to see what Smullen does here. I would certainly hope he tracks Postponed’s every move, which should ensure he ends up in a good position too.

The pace setters might come from team Ballydoyle. Highland Reel often races quite prominent and he’s likely to move forward right from the start. I would expect Dettori on Order Of St George to do the same from his wide draw. Whether both race too hard too early on is a valid question mark. New Bay might follow them closely.

The Winner: 

No doubt Postponed has allot going in the right direction. Draw, pace, form, likely position he’ll find himself in. He’s the most likely winner. However on ratings, official or RPR, this is a closer encounter than one would initially think. 2/1 is the current price, so in and around a 33% chance – a bit too short in my book.

Found, as classy a filly as she is, is more likely to find one or two too good once again I fear. The Japanese Makahiki is more interesting. If he finds himself in a decent position where he didn’t have to over commit in the early stages then he should have an awful lot to give when it really matters.

However in my book the 8/1 for Harzand is a criminal price. On the back of one poor performance, where we know there are valid excuses, bookies are happy to lay him. I imagine the return to 12f will be very much to his liking, the ground isn’t a problem, he’s a good draw and is a three year old with a handy weight for age allowance – if Smullen doesn’t drop too far off the pace, which I see as a slight danger to happen – Harzand will be a tough challenger in the finish.

Not mentioned yet has been New Bay. Last years Arc third. A talented individual, run with credit in the Irish Champion Stakes last month too and has a good draw today. He seems a bit below what is required to win the race in my eyes, though.

From the bigger prices Order Of St George makes plenty of appeal. He’s as highly rated as Postponed, though his shock defeat in the Irish Ledger is a question mark. But then he may find perfect conditions here. Dettori in the saddle will ensue a smooth ride to the front of the pack from the widest, but not necessarily worst draw. If he can get there without doing too much, he might have enough left to kick on turning for home. Given he lasts the trip thoroughly, he could then be hard to peg back.

Selections: 
Harzand @ 8/1 Betfred
Order Of St George @ 20/1 

QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes – The Preview

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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.

Pleascach @ 16/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win