Irish Champions Weekend Day Two Preview, Tips
There's a lot more top grade action on the second and final day of Irish Champions Weekend, this time from the Curragh. The action gets underway at 2.05 with an impossible looking sprint handicap, and the most flippant of token suggestions is Discussiontofollow, who has been in great form and ran very well in the Stewards' Cup last time.
We then enter the realms of possibility with a Group 2, the...
2.40 Blandford Stakes (Group 2) 1m2f
The starting point for this ladies' ten furlong event has to be Sir Michael Stoute, who has run seven since 1997, with four of them winning. He's represented by Mango Diva, a winner here over a furlong shorter a couple of months ago. Since then, the Diva fluffed her lines in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes, where it's possible she didn't enjoy Goodwood's undulating slopes.
She's won in the grade, and on the track, and at the distance, and her favoured ground is the same as today's. Declan McDonogh takes the ride, and I think she'll take a fair bit of beating.
Clearly, though, Aidan O'Brien's 2013 Irish Oaks winner, Chicquita, will be a tough nut to crack. Rated seven pounds higher than Mango, Chicquita has to overcome an absence of 421 days, and she may be using this as a prep before either Champions Day at Ascot, or something like the Prix de l'Opera.
The form of that twelve furlong Group 1 has not worked out, but Chicquita - formerly trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre in France - was a good second to Treve in the French Oaks previously. Her trainer reports that she'll improve for the race, and she'll probably be weak in the market.
The three-year-old Tarfasha may be a stronger domestic defender. She was fifth, beaten six lengths, by Taghrooda, and the form looks far more solid than the 2013 renewal. Prior to that she'd been closer to Taghrooda, when second in the English Derby, and the drop back in trip might be a shrewd move from Dermot Weld. She also gets weight for age, but the negative is that in two runs at the Curragh she's run clunk-clunk.
Ger Lyons' progressive Roheryn also gets the age allowance, but she looks a stronger stayer.
Mango Diva will do for me, at 5/1.
3.10 Flying Five Stakes (Group 3) 5f
This has been a good race for the British in the past decade and it looks like going that way again, with Stepper Point and Extortionist fighting for favouritism. Extortionist is a favourite of mine, but he does tend to get outpaced over five, and he's had a long season. As much as I'd love to see him win (I felt he should have done in the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood), I'll be looking elsewhere.
Stepper Point has run two brilliant races behind Sole Power, both over five on good ground. In between, he's run behind Extortionist twice, and his best chance against that one lies in under-performance by Olly Stevens' runner. In truth, there's very little between them.
Aidan O'Brien's Guerre was upwardly mobile in a short career before failing to fire in the King's Stand at Ascot. He's been freshened up since then and remains a colt of potential. The trainer also runs Fountain Of Youth, winner of the Sapphire Stakes over course and distance when last seen in June. He had a small margin to spare over Extortionist there, so again, there's little between them on the book.
Sir Maximilian at least offers a different form line, and his Tipperary Listed win last time hinted at the prospect of more, while Russian Soul wouldn't need to improve much from his third in the race last year.
All told it's a heck of a conundrum to unravel, and I'm going to take a rare pass. Gun to head, I'd probably give Guerre another chance. But I won't be betting here.
3.40 Moyglare Stud Stakes (Group 1) 7f
A cracking race in prospect with established form pitted against huge potential. The pick of the proven players is Roger Varian's Cursory Glance. The thrice-raced filly won her first two, including the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot, before finding one too good in the Lowther Stakes at York. That one was the brilliant Tiggy Wiggy, and she lost little in defeat.
Her trainer believes she's ready for the step up to seven and she has the clear pick of the form. In opposition is the bottomless scope of Ballydoyle's Found. A, ahem, cursory glance at her form wouldn't inspire: she won a mile Curragh maiden by three-quarters of a length from stablemate, Together Forever.
It was the manner of that win rather than the bare form of it that took the eye. Slowly away, she was on the heels of the leaders by the furlong pole, and won going away without recourse to the whip. Her trainer loves her, and he has bumped horses up from maidens to Group 1's in the past, with both Camelot and Kingsbarns proving up to the task. He's also had six other horses priced 6/1 or shorter beaten when attempting the feat, and the percentage call is to pass.
As an each way play, the one I quite like is Mick Channon's Malabar. Facile winner of the Group 3 Prestige Stakes at Goodwood last time, she deserves a crack at the top level, and the 12/1 with 888sport is unlikely to last.
4.15 National Stakes (Group 1) 7f
It's the turn of the young boys next, with the seven furlong National Stakes pitting five smart colts into battle. Actually, one is a pacemaker, but the other four all look varying degrees of smart.
The market screams in favour of Aidan O'Brien's Gleneagles, unbeaten in his last three including a Group 3 and a Group 2. This is the natural progression for him and he holds high rank among the domestic juvenile colts. The form of his Group 3 win has been franked by the last of three home, Convergence, and he's a dual course winner.
The British form is brought to the table by Dutch Connection, a lad that just keeps on surprising. I say that because he's not been favourite for any of his four runs to date. That hasn't stopped him running closest to 2000 Guineas hope, Faydhan, albeit at a respectful six length distance; and winning twice since, the latter in Group 3 company over this trip. It might be another surprise if he was to lower Gleneagles' colours, but he has a very solid profile at the trip and looks forecast material.
4.50 Irish St Leger (Group 1) 1m6f
Unlike the English version, this race is open to all ages, and it has attracted a fine cast for the 2014 production. Star stayer, Leading Light, heads the bill - and the betting - at not much better than evens, and he deserves that lofty opinion. Aside from a poor run in the Arc last year, Leading Light is unbeaten since his debut: that's eight wins from ten starts.
He won the trial for this a few weeks ago under identical conditions, and was expected to come on for the run. That being the case, it is hard to envisage Royal Diamond reversing form, despite he too being under-cooked the last day.
The progressive one is Pale Mimosa, winner of the Lonsdale Cup from subsequent Doncaster Cup winner Estimate, last time out. Good to firm is her ground - two from two on it - and she gets three pounds for being a filly.
While both of those are at a high level of form, this is very far from a two horse race. In opposition is the 2012 St Leger winner, Encke; Michael Owen's popular stayer, Brown Panther; and Champions Long Distance Cup third, Eye Of The Storm. The last named probably wants it softer, as does Brown Panther, and indeed Royal Diamond in all likelihood. But Encke relishes quick ground and he was a fine second in the Group 3 Glorious Stakes over an inadequate trip on his first run for almost two years.
He wasn't given a hard race there, so fears of a regression (or 'bounce') are likely to be wide of the mark, and he looks the best each way option in a very good looking heat. As an aside, it would be a interesting sub-plot if, after derailing Camelot's Triple Crown bid, Encke was also to dethrone reigning staying champ, Leading Light, in the self same ownership.
Pallasator was giving Mutual Regard eleven pounds in the Ebor and, on a line through that one, he could have the beating of Pale Mimosa. Whilst it might be unwise to be too literal in interpreting that form, Pallasator - now owned by Qatar Racing - has his chance.
The last two races are as impenetrable as the opener, and the following are very loose opinions. Caveat emptor.
5.20 Super Sales Stakes 6f 63yds
A massive field of thirty are due to go to post, and it will take a lot longer to load them than for the result to be known!
I won't be getting involved in this, but if you want to then Realtra might give you a run for a pound or two. Richard Fahey's Dark Angel filly has taken plenty of racing, and she was fourth to Tiggy Wiggy in a Group 2 last time. That's better than most of these will ever achieve, so if you don't mind backing a shortie in a huge field, give her a whirl.
5.50 Northfields Handicap 1m4f
Panama Hat is on the six-timer, and he's favoured by fast ground. The trip is fine for him too, and as a three year old against his elders, he gets a generous nine pounds from the more senior runners. A low draw won't inconvenience either, and though it's another horribly uninspired suggestion, he must have every chance.
It's a very tricky looking card, but perhaps Leading Light and Malabar each way will be the pick of those mentioned above.