Longines Irish Champions Weekend & Qatar Arc Trials
It’s a busy weekend of horse racing action with a very European feel – no Brexit when it comes to nicking a couple of bob – and Triple G will be watching it all and having a punt here there and almost everywhere!
Over the next 48 hours we have the Sprint Cup up at Haydock and Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown Saturday moving on to the Curragh on Sunday and if that isn’t enough for you over at Chantilly in France they are hosting the Qatar Arc Trials. A number of horses had multiple entries but hopefully we now know who is going where. I am going up nice and early as it is going to be a very busy couple of days; if you are sitting comfortably I will begin.
Firstly let’s start here in good old Blighty and the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock due off at 2.25. Godolphin speedster Harry Angel almost certainly won’t appreciate the rain that has been about and has been on the drift in the betting all week; his G.1 Commonweakth Cup conqueror Caravaggio has stayed in Ireland for Champions Weekend. That brings me to another Godolphin contender in Blue Point, backed by me at Royal Ascot each-way when third in the aforementioned G.1 Commonwealth Cup. I am a fan of the 3yo but all his form has been on good ground or better so the rain is a concern for him as well on what we know. That said I am on each-way again in this at 10-1 in the hope the ground doesn’t get to soggy and remains soft at worst. Brando is an obvious danger on the going but his price has shrunk all week as the rain fell and he is little value now.
And so it is across the Irish Sea on our weekend odyssey to Leopardstown for day one of the Irish Champions Weekend. At the time of writing it is good to yielding-good in places out there with showers forecast over the weekend. I am a little boringly going for three O’Brien horses but not necessarily the ones you might automatically think.
The Group One Matron Stakes for fillies and mares over the mile at 5.35 is a real cracker; this is a top line-up of fillies. The headline act is Winter who is four from four in Group Ones since her win in the 1,000 Guineas and duly a shade odds-on for this. Dirty Dozen member Wuheida will be in the line-up having found 1m3f in the soft tough going when 3rd in the G.1 German Oaks. Rhododendron, another member of my Dirty Dozen, and of course my 1,000 Guineas and Oaks bets this year were she finished second in both is in the line-up and is another dropping back to the mile. Jean-Claude Rouget's top-class French filly Qemah, yet another Dirty Dozen member, is making the trip from France. Beaten into third place when a hot favourite for last year's renewal she is back for another try. Aiden O’Brien also has Hydrangea and Roly Poly. I have decided to have an each-way punt at 7-1 on Rhododendron who has been so unlucky to come up against fillies of the class of Winter and Enable in this years Classics. She won’t mind getting her toe in, I think will be ridden to test the stamina of the milers and this might just be her time to shine.
The Group Two Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes at 6.10 looks to be at the mercy of another O’Brien inmate Sir John Lavery. The colt has two wins to his name, one on soft and one on soft to heavy so he is one of the few that won’t mind if it rains all day. Absolutely trotted up in the Listed Platinum Stakes at Cork last time and ably assisted by Ryan Moore today he is the pick at 6-4.
At 6.45 it is the main event over 1m2f the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes. Churchill has been short for this for days now with most of the dangers racing elsewhere in the next few weeks, QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot and of course the Arc. Dermot Weld has left in the mare Zhukova whilst the British challenge is headed by Martyn Meade's stable star Eminent, who enjoyed a confidence boosting Group Two success at Deauville a few weeks ago. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Poet's Word and Decorated Knight from Roger Charlton's stable also make the journey across the Irish Sea. It is hard to see anything in the line-up getting the better of the Ballydoyle colt at his best; if you can take the Evens.
No day of rest at Triple G Towers this weekend,all Sunday bets are on NRNB. I will start Sunday still in Ireland but this time at the Curragh for day two of the Irish Champions Weekend. They are describing the ground as soft on the straight and the round course yielding to soft. Somewhat unintentionally I am flying the flag for the boys from Ballydoyle again in a number of races but they do appear to have a very strong hand.
At 2.35 we have the Group Two Blandford Stakes. There was a positive bulletin from Ballydoyle earlier this week on two-time G1 winning filly Seventh Heaven, who has not been seen since a very impressive display at Newmarket in May when she won the G.2 Jockey Club stakes as she liked. O'Brien said earlier in the week you would more likely see her here than in France and here she is. If at her best after the lay-off she wins, she was second in the G.1 Sheema Classic on Yielding which is encouraging if it stays wet, and I have the 7-2. The money has been coming for appropriately named Rain Goddess.
We have the Group Two Flying Five Stakes is at 3.05 and it looks pretty significant that Caravaggio lines-up here rather than in the Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday. The colt lost his unbeaten record in the G.1 July Cup before returning ‘very sore’ when disappointing in the G.1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last month. All is reportedly well and a return to winning ways will be expected at 6-4.
The young ladies are out for the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes at 3.40. Clemmie, Magical, Happily and September are all entered by Aiden O’Brien and all have a chance. That said I am taking them on with Alpha Centauri. I backed the Jessica Harrington trained filly in the G.3 Albany stakes at the Royal meeting when she just couldn’t quite get there in time to overhaul Different League. A lovely big filly she has winning form on yielding and I think she is capable of taking on the massed ranks of Ballydoyle and winning. Grab a bit of the 4-1.
It is the turn of the 2YO colts at 4.15 for the Group One Vincent O’Brien National Stakes. Gustav Klimt heads many a list for next years Classics already after his win in the seven furlong G.2 Superlative Stakes when he ran about a furlong further than the opposition swerving, ducking and diving and still got up! His two wins have been on good and good-firm so if they get a deluge it would be a concern but goodish ground should be fine. He is odds-on at 4-7 but with a clear run today should oblige. Beckford stepping up in distance is feared.
The stayers are out at 4.50 for the G.1 Irish St. Leger. I really never could see my favourite horse in training Big Orange crossing the Irish Sea with the ground far from in his favour, trainer Michael Bell told At The Races on Thursday “Given the prevailing ground conditions of yielding to soft, I'm afraid we won't be running……… He'll now go for the Prix du Cadran on Arc weekend. That's the plan and you can get nice ground.” With no Big Orange it looks to be all about Order Of St George and the five-year-old is duly 1-2 best. His form is superior to any of the opposition and he is hard to oppose; won this in 2015 before coming second at long odds-on last season. He won the ‘trial’ hands and heels as easily as he liked looking at this best. Hopefully there won’t be another upset but if there is Dartmouth looks the one most likely to cause it.
And so we go to France for the Arc Trials where to going is described as good-soft as we approach the weekend. Officials at Chantilly awoke on Tuesday morning to a bit of a surprise as a number of wild boar had sneaked onto the track digging holes and snuffling around as wild boars do on the section in front of the Grandes Ecuries. Clerk of the course Matthieu Vincent was quick to point out there was no major damage done with the boars having kindly left alone the racing line. The horse racing itself should be anything but boring (sorry) with plenty to enjoy. It should be sunny on Sunday following rain on Saturday so the word ‘soft’ will must likely still be in the going description.
The first of the major ‘trials’ at 2.00 is the 1m4f Group Two Prix Niel. Cracksman has headed the ante-post lists for this in the run-up and is 1-2 generally. G.1 Grand Prix de Paris winner Shakeel looks the danger and the Aga Khan owned colt does appear to be improving after only six runs.
The Group One Prix Vermeille over the 1m4f is at 3.15. Left Hand is set to defend her crown having won this last year but she has struggled to rediscover her best form so far in 2017. Dirty Dozen member and last year's runner-up Endless Time is lining-up again also for Charlie Appleby. Beaten only in the last 50 yards last year she showed she has lost none of her fighting spirit when winning the G.3 Lillie Langtry on the soft last time and I think she can lead this line-up a merry dance and gain revenge for last years defeat at a nice looking 5-1.
Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum is set to be represented by both Massaat and Taareef in the Group One Qatar Prix du Moulin over a mile at 3.55. Massaat made a triumphant return after a year off the track when winning the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury last month (tipped on here). Runner-up in the 2000 Guineas last season, the Owen Burrows-trained four-year-old gets another chance at a Group One over a mile. Having run only seven times he is of course still open to plenty of improvement and will surely come on for that first run in a year when winning the Hungerford. That win was on soft, his 2nd in the 2,000 was on good-soft, so underfoot conditions are fine. At 6-1 he is the value punt. Trainer Owen Burrows said "We've been very happy with him since Newbury. He came out of the race well and we're looking forward to Sunday. I thought he'd run well in the Hungerford as he'd been working well at home. I just felt he might be a bit rusty. I think that run has put the edge back on him and they're forecast a nice drop of rain, so it looks as though the ground will be suitable. We'll have a better idea of where we stand after the weekend." Richard Fahey has given Ribchester the green light to run and the jolly is naturally feared.
It’s 1m4f again for the Group Two Prix Foy. Japanese hope Satono Diamond is odds-on for the Group Two Prix Foy at 4.25 and as I said back in August in a preview he really has to look good here to have any chance against Enable come October. I’m not sure he can win the big one for the Land of the Rising Sun but he should win his trial and you can get 4-5 about his doing so.
So that’s just the thirteen races I shall be involved with then over the next 48 hours; it is going to be a long weekend, and hopefully a profitable one!
See you on the other side. Be lucky