Tag Archives: Irish Champions Weekend

Sunday Selections: 11th September 2022

3.55 Doncaster: Group 1 St. Leger, 1m6½f

New London is the right favourite. I’ve followed his season with joy, given he was one of my 5 To Follow for the season as well. He’s gone from strengths to strengths and will have a good chance to win this Classic.

This isn’t a vintage renewal and New London has got the strongest form in the book, plus has beaten some of todays rivals already – therefore it’s easy to see why he is clear at the top of the betting.

It’s hard to argue that his Gordon Stakes victory is a key piece of form that makes him the one to beat today.

Yet, I have some reservations over the combination of trip and ground. New London has got a fair chance to stay, though stamina isn’t a certainty over the Leger trip.

More so, his best performances came on fast ground. While It won’t be bottomless today, there is going to be significant give in ground, nonetheless. The price suggests there are zero worries about either parameter. I have concerns and with that in mind have to oppose him at this short price.

My clear number two on the shortlist is Hoo Ya Mal. A surprise runner-up in the Derby, he was subsequently third behind New London in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.

On the surface he was fair and square beaten that day. Nonetheless, in my view he is much more closly matched with the favourite than the final result of that race and the price difference in the betting today suggest.

In the Gordon Stakes Hoo Ya Mal seriously caught my eye, in fact. He improved in fine style from five furlongs out; he made rapid progress in the home straight and hit the front two furlongs from home. Ultimately, he paid the price in the closing stages for this huge but inefficient effort.

Plenty has been made of Hoo Ya Mal’s subsequent and most recent victory in the March Stakes. It was a workmanlike performance, rather than a fleshy effort against inferior rivals workmanlike style. But he showed enough to enhance his reputation in my book: he produced a solid change of gear and proved his stamina.

It was a lovely Leger prep, I feel.. Everything points to a big run today. The trip will suit. The ground is unlikely to pose an issue. Different ground conditions and the additional distance could easily see Hoo Ya Mal turn the table with New London.

He’s also closely matched on topspeed with the Godolphin horse: 107 for Hoo Ya Mal’s Derby run; 108 for new London’s victory at Goodwood.

I struggle to make a serious case for other horses in the race. The “hype horse” Haskoy has to prove her class significantly up in class. Eldar Eldarov could improve back over this sort of trip. But I don’t rate him a better chance than Hoo Ya Mal.

Emily Dickinson looks a huge price, and has a solid each-way chance I feel. She stays the trip, has the pedigree and clearly talent; with ease in the ground she may find a bit of improvement, and that would make her dangerous.

10pts win – Hoo Ya Mal @ 8.6

……..

1.15 Curragh: Premier Handicap, 6f

Top-weight Power Under must carry a huge weight in this race. The jury is out whether he’s truly as good as his current 110 Official Rating. However, with soft ground sure to suit, I believe in these type of conditions there’s every chance he is that good, and perhaps a few pound better, in fact.

It has to be, if he should go close today. In saying that, if that turns out to be a correct assessment he’ll be a huge runner in this Premier Handicap.

The 4-year-old caught my eye when last seen over this course and distance. He finished third that day but fared best of those up with the pace. The form looks strong, with the winner holding his own in Group races subsequently, and the runner-up winning a Handicap off a big weight.

One can discount his penultimate run in Group 2 class when he welt, but he was strong in the finish landing a Cork Listed sprint. he seems to do well off breaks, so not having run since June isn’t a concern.

Power Under Me has yet to run to a noteworthy topspeed rating. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though. Today he’s got a super chance: a group horse in a Handicap….

10pts win – Power Under Me @ 10/1

……..

2.25 Curragh: Group 1 Flying Five, 5f

As intriguing as this contest is, especially with Highfield Princess and her wonderful success story this season, the market overestimates her chances today, I feel.

She may well struggle after all her recent exertions on the deep ground likely encountered up the Curragh straight. She handles the going, no doubt, but I firmly believe the rain does suit A Case Of You much more.

Especially over the minimum trip, as A Case Of You holds the strongest piece of form in these conditions – his Longchamp victory from last October in heavy going, awarded a 114 topspeed rating, gives him an outstanding chance if he can be in the same form today.

He was an excellent runner-up in the Flying Five 12 months ago, before landing the Prix de l’Abbaye in dramatic fashion. He proved that wasn’t a fluke when winning the Al Quoz sprint at Meydan earlier this year.

Since then two lesser performances raise a few question marks. But with conditions sure to suit today, a fresh A Case Of You should be hard to beat.

10pts win – A Case Of You @ 8.4

Preview: Irish Champions Day 2022

Irish Champions Weekend is here. Always a superb two days of top-class racing. Especially Saturday at Lepordstown on a sunny Saturday is probably one of my favourite days for going racing.

I won’t go myself today, unfortunately. But certainly can’t wait to watch the action later on from the comfort of the living room. The sun is shining here where I live, not all that far from Leopardstown. I envy all those lucky folks who can make their way to the track this afternoon.

As for the racing: naturally my eyes are drawn to the Champion Stakes. It looks a fine renewal on paper. Soft ground isn’t ideal, nonetheless the right horse are here to compete. From a betting perspective I also am keen on the subsequent Solonaway Stakes, precisely because the going is soft.

…….

3.45: Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, 1 mile 2f

French superstar Vadeni is favourite to follow in the footsteps of Almanzor, who won the 2016 edition of the Irish Champion Stakes for Jean-Claude Rouget and Christophe Soumillon.

The 3-year-old colt enjoyed a sensational season to date: runaway winner in the French Derby, and subsequently a dramatic victory in the Eclipse at Sandown.

He enjoyed a break in the meantime and is now back to go and win the long-term target connections set out for the season.

Vadeni’s brilliant ability to change gear in an instant, tactical versatility, ability to handle soft ground and weight allowance he receives from his elders makes him fair favourite in the betting market and also in my book.

Yet, I do wonder whether the soft going may take the sting out of his turn of foot. Yes, he won the French Derby in similar conditions, but he meets much better opposition today and my feeling is he’s a seriously better horse on decent ground.

Also he meets some of the older rivals on worse weight terms than at Sandown. That may not be an issue, as Vadeni should have improved physically too – it’s somewhat nit-picking; you have to be, though. In such a competitive field, when the favourite is such a short price.

This years 2000 Guineas runner-up Luxembourg endured troubled campaign. He missed the Derby and only returned to the track about four weeks ago in a Group 3 at the Curragh. He got the job done, without sparkling, but is expected to come on for the run a lot.

You certainly can bet on seeing a better version of Luxembourg today than in August. Whether it’s going to be enough to win an Irish Champion Stakes is a different matter.

The trip will suit, the ground isn’t ideal but he handles it. Yet, he’s far from outstanding on topspeed, with his career best going back twelve month – 102 in the Beresford Stakes. He’s got a bit to find with most of his rivals today. He could have the ability to do so, mind.

Stable mates Stone Age and Broome are intriguing runners. The feeling is Stone Age has more to offer than what he has shown since landing the Derby Trial over this course and distance back in May.

Broome won at Royal Ascot this summer, was then unlucky when last seen at Saratoga. An easy lead for him would be a dangerous scenario.

Don’t underestimate Alenquer. He was a dramatic winner of what was perhaps the race of the season, the Tattersalls Gold Cup, back in May at the Curragh. He wasn’t disgraced at Sandown in the Eclipse the next time despite finishing last, and comes here fresh.

Grand Prix de Paris winner Onesto provides a second chance for French connections. The drop in trip may not be ideal, but on ground soft it may not be a big deal. He probably can be marked up for his French Derby 6th place finish and seems to improve at the right time of the year.

Underestimate Mishriff at your peril. Now a 5-year-old, he may not be quite as good as he was last season, but he still runs to a seriously high standard. He was arguably the most unfortunate runner-up in the Eclipse back in June. It’s fair to say if the gap doesn’t close for him when it did then, he probably beats Vadeni on the day.

There are valid excuses for his poor subsequent performance in the King George. He’s better judged on his fine runner-up effort behind superstar colt Baaeed in the Juddmonte International Stakes. Mishriff didn’t stand a chance with Baaeed, but who would?

Yet, this second place finish is still the best performance this season by any runner in this Irish Champions Stakes field on ratings: it was worthy of a 111 topspeed rating and 124 Racingpost Rating – both the highest achieved this season.

Soft ground isn’t quite ideal, though. Mishriff’s best performances all come on decent ground. Nonetheless, he handles it. The drop to 10 furlongs is sure to suit.

Selection:

The ground should be the leveler, I feel. There are plenty of reasons to like Vadeni, yet he’s a short enough price in a race with solid alternatives. Fellow French raider Onesto makes plenty of appeal on prices.

But in summary I must give Mishriff the nod. He’s a superb price, given he’s probably the best horse in the race. He showed signs of brilliance and signs of the opposite this season. Let’s hope he can run one more time to his best. His best will be good enough to win.

10pts win – Mishriff @ 5.3

………

4.20: Group 2 Solonaway Stakes, 1 mile

Many intriguing contenders here, without a real standout chance in my view. Even though, I feel Boundless Ocean could be too good in this field if he can show his best on the soft ground.

British raider Jadoomi relishes ease in the ground and improved nicely this season, having won two on the bounce, including the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood when last seen. His best topspeed of 88 doesn’t scream short-price favourite, though.

After 367 days off the track the filly Just Beautiful is back. She was highly progressive as a 3-year-old, won five of her seven career runs and could easily improve to a level good enough to land this race. The question marks of race fitness and ground suitability are off-putting, nonetheless, especially at the current odds.

One who is certain to be seen to his best in these conditions is Raadobarg. I was waiting for him to get another chance in a race with plenty of cut in the ground. He ran better this year than bare form may suggest.

He won two on the bounce at the beginning of the season, was then desperately unlucky in a Listed contest at Longchamp, before finishing well from off the pace in the Celebration Stake at the Curragh when not advantaged by his racing position. He ran a better race than the 5¼ lengths margin behind Boundless Ocean in the Desmond Stakes suggested.

Raadobarg has to improve on ratings to seriously feature. His best 92 topspeed is solid in this field, but no more. However, with the right ground conditions, possibly a positive right from the #1 draw, he could find that bit of extra. If he does he’s quite a bit overpriced.

10pts win – Raadobarg @ 6.8

Saturday Selections: September, 14th 2019

DSC_5262

3.40 Leopardstown: Group 3 Stakes, 1m 4f

I probably should know better: backing an Aiden O’Brien horse coming back from a lay-off. But by all accounts, if the rumblings are anywhere near true that Mount Everest was considered a proper Derby contender, and if judged by his entries for the rest of the season, he’ll need to show something significant today in order to go on those dates in a few weeks time.

Aiden O’Brien has played down expectations. That’s only fair. And surely Mount Everest won’t be at 100% today. It’s a gamble and you never know how far in their preparation these horses are coming off a long injury break, and whether they ever come back to their best, and in this case whether this particular individual has trained on over the winter.

However, this Group 3 is such a lackluster contest that I am prepared to back the “potential” today. Very few in this field have achieved a topspeed rating over 90 to date. Those that have can be discounted for a variety of reason of trip or ground or legitimacy of that particular posting – in my book at least.

The favourit Buckhurst, despite having three career wins to his name, has never ran faster than 67. The main dangers I actually see in the race are Norway, who has proven to be a rock solid horse and has achieved a career best when last seen, plus long-shot and stable mate Blenheim Palace, who could easily outrun his massive price tag and is a compelling each-way candidate.

But at given odds, Mount Everest is clearly of major interest. When last seen twelve month ago in the Bresford Stakes, he finished second in a tight finish behind Japan, having Sovereign more than three lengths behind. That form looks incredibly strong in hindsight and a topspeed of 94 achieved that day is credible.

No doubt this is the strongest piece of form in this race. Given Mount Everest is a May foal, one would have expected him to be a much better 3-year-old, so it’s plausible that improvement is to come with Mount Everest maturing. How much of that he’ll show today is the question mark.

On the other hand, given a long break and injury to overcome he may never fulfill this potential. He may not be ready to go today either. AOB’s record with those returning isn’t all that strong either. I am prepared to take the game in this particular race, though.

Selection:
10pts win – Mount Everest @ 4/1 MB

……….

4.50 Leopardstown: G2 Boomerang Stakes, 1m

The 6/4 for Lancaster House can only be described as a silly price. Possibly my judgement looks silly in a few hours time, though? I’m puzzled, regardless, because I feel Richard Fahey’s Space Traveller should be a much shorter price than he is.

The 3-year-old colt will need to things to pan out right given his running style, that is a clear concern for me, given that it can prove difficult to peg prominent horses back at Leopardstown if the pace isn’t overly strong.

It’s a risk I take, simply because Space Traveller has overwhelmingly the strongest form in the book. His Royal Ascot success is a tremendous piece of form, given how the race has worked out ever since, and a 106 topspeed rating he achieved that day looks all the more real for it.

Space Traveller stayed 9 furlongs three weeks ago at Haydock, when less than a lengths beaten in a highly competitive of the Strensall Stakes.

Ground and trip will suit today. A good pace looks likely. Now it’s up to WJ Lee to time it right. If he does, Space Traveller should be the one they all see the back of at the finish line.

Selection:
10pts win – Space Traveller @ 11/2 MB

Sunday Selections: 10th September 2017

DSC_1454

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.

…..

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

DSC_5286

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

…..

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

….

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

……

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

QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes – The Preview

DSC_0319

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