Hold on to your hats folks, as this weekend we’re treated to a feast of high-class racing in England, Ireland and over the Channel in France.
Harry Angel, Winter, Churchill and Ribchester are just a few of the stars on display, as they contest an array of prestigious events.
It’s the Irish Champion Stakes in Ireland, with a couple of thrilling days racing from Leopardstown and the Curragh. Churchill is even-money to capture the feature for Aidan O’Brien, with Eminent looking the main danger after his recent impressive Group Two success at Deauville.
Winter has had an outstanding campaign to date, and is another short-priced Ballydoyle favourite, as she looks to add the Matron Stakes to the four Group One’s already under her belt. She faces a field of classy fillies including stable companion Rhododendron, who looks to get her season back on track after being pulled-up in France last time. Prior to that, she had finished runner-up in a pair of Classics and could prove a huge danger to the favourite.
The juvenile scene could be in for something of a shake-up, with the Moyglare Stud and the Vincent O’Brien National taking place at the Curragh on Sunday. Gustav Klimt is all the rage for the latter, but I’m in the Beckford camp. And I will not hear of defeat for Clemmie in the Moyglare, assuming she’s allowed to take here chance on soft ground.
Over in France, Ribchester returns to the track in the Prix Du Moulin. He’s by no means a certainty with Inns Of Court, Taareef, Zelzal and a resurgent Massaat, all capable of a massive performance. The French have won the last five, and this looks a hugely competitive renewal.
Back on home turf, attention turns to the Sprint Cup at a soggy Haydock on Saturday. Plenty more rain is forecast to fall before the flag drops on tomorrow’s Group One, and it’ll be interesting to see if all 12 declared stand their ground. Harry Angel is currently favourite to add this to the July Cup he took at Newmarket, though clearly conditions will be completely different.
Clive Cox appears confident that the three-year-old will cope, and being out of a Cadeaux Genereux mare gives hope. He won the Mill Reef with plenty of cut in the ground last September, and his action suggests he’ll be fine. Nevertheless, he’d have been an even-money shot on quick ground, and as a punter we remain somewhat in the dark until he actually proves he can cope.
Brando has been popular with punters this week, and certainly impressed in France last time. He was no match for Harry Angel in the July Cup, though he did finish well for third. He is 4lb better off at the weights for that two-length defeat, and though the younger horse may well have strengthened further in the two months that have past, the weight differential is quite substantial in a sprint. Assuming there’s no repeat of the burst blood vessel that occurred at York in May (ground was again testing), he looks sure to go very close.
Tasleet won the race in May, coping admirably with the testing conditions to win impressively under Jim Crowley. Like Harry Angel, he too is out of a Cadeaux Genereux mare, and beat some decent horses that day, including Magical Memory, The Tin Man and Growl. He disappointed at Newmarket last time, but with both track and ground likely to be ideal, he looks a huge danger to the favourite. A strong pace will help him settle, and if Crowley can get the best from him, he could take all the beating.
As well as the favourite, Godolphin are represented by the talented Blue Point. Off the track since running a close third in the Commonwealth Cup, he also has to prove he can go on the ground. He’s by Shamardal, which gives some hope, but of the Godolphin pair I’d be siding with Harry to come out best, as he did at Royal Ascot when beaten by Caravaggio.
The Tin Man ran a cracker in this race 12 months ago, when runner-up to Quiet Reflection in similarly testing ground. Likely to be coming with a rattle late-on, he’s a tough fella to predict, and though it would come as no surprise should he win, he could just as easily finish down the field. He’s a 7/1 shot, and though that is tempting I’ll probably steer clear, hoping not to regret the decision.
A three-year-old filly won this race last year, and Richard Fahey hopes to follow suit with the beautifully bred Queen Kindly. She’s by Frankel, and her Mum Lady Of The Desert, was runner-up in this race back in 2010. She’ll certainly need to step-up on what she’s been doing so far this season, but I’ve seen her name mentioned in several places this week, and at 40s there’ll be plenty taking an each-way punt.
Three-year-olds have a strong recent record, with five victories from the last 10 renewals, and I’d give a mention for Aidan O’Brien’s Spirit Of Valor. With Caravaggio staying in Ireland, this fella looks to be Ballydoyle’s best hope, in a race the team have largely ignored over the years. The ground is undoubtedly a worry for this colt with an American pedigree, but he’s not without a chance, having run well this summer, especially when a close second in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. He showed plenty of speed that day, and if coping with conditions could run a big race at 33/1.
On decent ground I’d be with Harry Angel all day long. This track is ideal for him, and I fancy he would have demolished this field with a display of devastating speed. However, in testing conditions I’m going to take him on. Tasleet showed in May that he thrives in soft ground, and he’s the one for me. I’ll also risk a few quid each-way on Spirit Of Valor, though conditions are clearly a concern.
Best of luck to all those having a punt.