The Japan Cup (Grade 1)

Trading Leather running third to The Fugue and Al Kazeem in the 2013 Irish Champion Stakes

Trading Leather running third to The Fugue and Al Kazeem in the 2013 Irish Champion Stakes

The last foreign trained winner of the Japan Cup was Luca Cumani’s Alkaased in 2005.

The last, and only, Irish trained winner was Frank Dunne’s Stanerra back in 1983. This year Jim Bolger has sent Trading Leather to bridge the 31 year gap.

Trading Leather’s last win was the Irish Derby last year. He hasn’t seen the winners enclosure since notching up a seven race losing sequence in the process. That and the draw position of 18 (widest of all) are the negatives that the Godolphin owned colt has to overcome.

Let’s concentrate on the positives.

Second to Novellist in the King George after the Irish Derby success, second to Declaration Of War in the International at York next time out and in his last run as a three old, third to the Fugue in the Irish Champion Stakes.

That’s defeat at the hands of three of the best in Europe over the last decade. Novellist was shudderingly brilliant that day at Ascot and would have gone off favourite for the Arc had injury not curtailed his career. Declaration Of War fought out that marvellous battle up the Santa Anita home straight in the Breeders Cup Classic when beaten a nose and a head by Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge. The Fugue followed up the Irish Champion Stakes in spectacular style when winning at Royal Ascot in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes this year.

As a four year old the son of Telfilo returned to the racecourse at Group 2 level in May when contesting the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket. He was turned over as an odds on shot by Gospel Choir and Pether’s Moon. The winner, Gospel Choir only had one more run, two weeks later when beating Tac De Boistron in the Yorkshire Cup, again a Group 2. Tac De Boistron then didn’t run until October when he won the Group 1 Prix Royal Oak (French St Leger) in October.

Naturally Trading Leather’s trainer Jim Bolger only pitched him at the highest level since.

Next time out he ran second in the Coral Eclipse to Mukhadram. He then ran fifth to Taghrooda in the King George and third to the Grey Gatsby in this years Irish Champion Stakes. You could well argue this form isn’t as strong as last year’s but consider that last time out only Australia and The Grey Gatsby were ahead of him. When viewed in the context of this challenge that’s still very strong form.

Of course he’ll have to beat the home team headed by Gentildonna (going for a never done before, third straight victory) in the race, Just A Way and Harp Star plus Germany’s Ivanhowe.

Gentildonna will renew her partnership with Ryan Moore who won on her at Meydan in March beating Cirrus Des Aigles in the Sheema Classic. She’s run twice since beaten both times though second last time in a prep for this could well mean she’s back to her best.

Just A Way, Harp Star and Ivanhowe all ran in the Arc. Neither Japanese horses got in a blow however it must be remembered Just A Way was the most impressive winner of the Dubai Duty Free in March while Harp Star who loves to come from behind was given a mammoth task by her jockey in the Arc and if ridden closer to the pace can be seen at her best. Ivanhowe was way down the field in Paris did beat Sea The Moon in a G1 in the summer and after the Arc won another in Munich at the start of the month.

It’s a big ask to travel halfway across the world to win Japan’s major all age race.

Can he do it?

When you consider the opposition, top class proven international performers and then the draw, virtually in the carpark, you’d be inclined to think no.

Then you think Gentildonna won from stall 15 in 2012 so maybe the draw isn’t a killer. Then you wonder about the current form of the home team, say to yourself that if Trading Leather ran in this year’s Arc would he have done better than Harp Star and Just A Way, probably. Then factor in that Gentildonna has lost those last two runs.

Then consider that Trading Leather is running over his best trip, on his favoured ground, which he hasn’t encountered this year and consider the shrewdness of his trainer then the picture looks different.

You would have to conclude that Trading Leather has a real good chance of belying his 20/1 odds offered at the moment. If you are going to back him best not to be tempted to take that price, instead put PMU on your docket thereby taking the local odds as it’s hardly lightly the Tokyo public will steam into him and you just might end up with a more juicy return than that offered at the moment.

Recommendation: Trading Leather EW (PMU Price)

 

 

Champions Stakes (Group 1)

The Two Year Old Free Eagle (8th September 2013)

The Two Year Old Free Eagle (8th September 2013)

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA

The Three Year Old Free Eagle on the way out to win the Enterprise Stakes on Irish Champions Day

Oh how the Newmarket and Ascot teams must envy their Leopardstown and Curragh counterparts.

The Irish Champions weekend sits pretty in the racing calander on the second weekend in September. Three weeks before Lonchamp. Perfect. Sunny, warm good ground as near as can be guaranteed. The Irish weekend can only be viewed as a massive success. Poor England, one Group 1 more than the Irish weekend and some of the best races of the season to boot but it looks like it’s all come too late.

Racing is all about risk. When you go deep into October there’s more than an even chance that the animals who lit up the summer may have well have been stood down, retired, or more likely won’t risked on what’s fast becoming winter ground. If you are still around and have one more chance of glory the Santa Anita sun must look very appealing compared to wet and windy Ascot.

It’s a bit of a bummer but England’s big climax comes wrapped in dark skies with a touch of damp squid. Today, Future Champions Day saw all three favourites turned over in the Group 1’s at Newmarket. No doubt come next year we’ll be told it was because they didn’t handle the wet dank conditions of late autumn. Bad ground the culprit.

As for tomorrow, Champions Day is alas without “the big name”. The two stars of the season Kingman and Australia have moved on for what for then will be more interesting pursuits leaving us the racing public hoping their prodigy will prove equally as exciting. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if …… let’s not go there.

The race and day can still provide a horse worthy of the title Champion.

There’s Cirrus Des Aigles. We forgotten how good he really is, familiarity breeding it own contempt.  If he’d been an entire he would be viewed as a superstar. Form says he’d have won the Arc a couple of weeks ago, he beat Treve in The Ganay in April (before any ailments) and accounted for Flintshire in the Coronation Cup in June sandwiching in the Prix D’Ispahan in May. His marvellous trainer Corine Barande-Barbe put him away for a crack at a fourth Prix Dollar which he won only to be denied in the Lonchamp stewards room. He’s an absolutely wonderful horse, a winner of this in 2011 from So You Think, he only went down to Frankel in 2012 and Farhh in 2013. Throw in the Meyden win over St Nicholas Abbey in the 2012 Sheema Classic and don’t forget the second to Gentledonna this year. What a horse. Wouldn’t you like to read his biography.

He’s opposed by Frankel’s brother Noble Mission. He’s become a man this year. A double Group I winner beating Magician in the Tattersall’s Gold Cup and benefiting from the disqualification of Spirit Jim in the Grand Prix De Saint Cloud  (he looked a winner 100 yards out only to tire in the final strides). We haven’t seen him since a trip to Munich in July where Lucky Lion (conqueror of Sea The Moon) got the better of him in the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis.

Ruler Of The World, last years Derby winner looked back to his best in his Arc warm up, the Prix Foy where he displayed a sharp turn of foot to overcome Flintshire. In the Arc itself as the year before the cards didn’t fall right for him. Bumped at the start he was forced to race prominently only to fall away at the business end. He’s so much a better horse when he’s held up and can come from behind. He needs something to attack and coming off the pace is his strength.

Western Hymn is capable if not top drawer. Not seen since August at Deauville when behind Gailo Chop he was a winner of the Prix Eugene Adam over 10f at Maisions Laffitte on soft ground. No doubt John Gosden has targeted this as his chief aim.

The wonderfully named Sheikhzayedroad keeps stepping up for David Simcock. The York Stakes winner in July went to Woodbine coming home with the Northern Dancer Trophy on the plane. This will require another big leap up the ladder. Al Kazeem has already been up the ladder landing three top G’1 s last year. His return from stud duties to earn a crust on the racecourse is well worth the try and next year he may have forgotten about all those mares he was introduced to.

Roger Varian has had a magnificent season but even he won’t be dreaming tonight of victory for Ayrad. Pether’s Moon is proven on the soft having won in Veliefendi then keeping up the good work beating Parish Hall in the Cumberland Lodge here two weeks ago.

A somewhat unknown quantity here is Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle. Considered massively talented as a two year old he went to Leopardstown going off odds on to beat Australia having already been installed Derby favourite on the back of what looked like a cracking maiden win. He got beat 6L leaving his trainer head scratching though it’s clear he wasn’t right.  A setback in the spring ruled him out of the Derby picture and we had to wait a whole year to see him again. This time he was the 7L winner. Granted the opposition didn’t include Australia, Dermot wisely not throwing him straight back in the deep end instead allowing him find his feet in a more gentle reintroduction to back to the racecourse. He was mighty impressive.

What strikes you about the two pictures above is Pat Smullen’s expression. Caring and tender looking after a two year old turns to killer steel on the mature three year old. No longer raw you can see Pat means business and has complete confidence in this fella. His look will be no different if, and it’s still a big if, Dermot gives him the leg up tomorrow. The plan is to walk the course in the morning before the final decision is made.

Let’s hope for the thumbs up so we get the chance to see the next equine champion.

Recommendation : Free Eagle 3/1 win

If he doesn’t run Ruler Of The World coming from off the pace can chin Cirrus Des Aigles.

The Prix L’Arc De Triomphe


Just A Way winnier of The Dubai Duty In March

15 individual G1 winners.

Between them this field has won 25 G1’s in the last two years. They’ve also been second 13 times and third 7 times at top level. Tells you the depth of the field. Just what you’d expect for the Arc, Europe’s middle distance absolute highlight.

Treve at the peak of her powers won the Prix Diane, Vermille and this last year. This year she’s been 2nd in The Ganay, 3rd in The Prince Of Wales’s and more worryingly 4th in the Vermille last time out. Are her powers gone?

John Gosden’s three year old Taghrooda, the Oaks and King George winner, tops the market. She was a run away winner of the Oaks and equally impressive at Ascot and the market seems to have forgiven her defeat at the hands of Tapestry (supplemented here) in the Yorkshire Oaks despite not having visited the racecourse since.

Ectot last years Criterium International winner, another three year old, will probably start favourite on the Pari Mutual. He beat Karakontie (subsequent Poulains winner) before a set back sidelined him until the Autumn. In his warm up he won the Prix Neil a shade lucky on Arc trails day (Adelaide 3rd, not a clear run).

The Japanese really want to win this race and a strong contingent travel in an attempt to go one better than Orfevre last year. They include Just A Way who in the last year has won the Tenno Sho (Autumn), The Dubai Duty Free and Yasuda Kinen. He looked a proper horse in the spring at Meyden when demolishing the field in the desert. He is supported by Gold Ship who won the Takarazuka Kinen this year and last and Harp Star the Japanese 1000 Guineas this year who beat Gold Ship last time out in the Sappora Kinen in a trail for this. It’s a strong contingent from the east.

Beside Ectot the home team hope to keep it on French soil with Avenir Certain who took the The Pouliches and Prix Diane this year. Like Treve last year she comes here unbeaten.  They also have Flintshire the Grand Prix De Paris 2013 winner, Spritjim (disqualified after first past the post in the Grand Prix De Saint Cloud) and Prince Gibraltar, Dolniya, and Siljan’s Saga in the field.

Germany are looking to emulate the success of Danedream with this year’s representative Ivanhowe. He beat the ante post favourite Sea The Moon (retired through injury) in the Grosser Preis van Baden.

Ruler Of The World last year’s Epsom Derby winner looks to make Al Shaqab’s investment sharp thinking. He looked good in the Prix Foy and the quiet build up might bring him here the freshest of all. Similar Chiquita last years Irish Oaks winner, whose €6m price tag can look good value if she bags this after nearly a year off the track. She showed she retained her abilities when running second in the Blandford recently.

English hope Kingston Hill was the Racing Post Trophy winner last year and this year he took the Leger after a frustrating summer for connections where he was withdrawn from the Irish Derby and Eclipse because of the fast ground. He only found Australia too good at Epsom. He also may have benefitted from a light campaign.

Al Kazeem (supplemented) didn’t take to stud duties and try’s to add to last years Coral Eclipse, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Prince Of Wales’s. Roger Charlton says he’s nothing to lose in his second Arc attempt however he’s a lot to gain.

You can see from the quality of what this field has won to date that this is an open Arc. Treve could well bounce back to her scintillating best of last year. The step back up in trip could see Tapestry prevail over Taghrooda once again or this could be the year for Japan. In Just A Way they have a quality colt full of eastren promise who can finally nail that elusive Arc that Japanese breeders so crave.

Recommendation : Just A Way 8/1 win

Tricast Option : Combine : Just A Way, Treve, Tapestry and Ruler Of The World. 

 

 

The Cheveley Park Stakes (Group 1)

Twiggy Wiggy looked an extremely impressive winner of the Lowhter at York where she went pillar to post. The pack in behind never got in a blow as she stretched away from them 2 f out to win easily from Cursory Glance (since a winner of the Moyglare (G1)) and Anthem Alexander.

At York she was avenging her short head defeat suffered at the hands of Anthem Alexander in the Queen Mary and Eddie Lynham has chosen to let the fillies meet once again.

Andre Farbe throws High Celrebrity in here looking for a fourth French win in the last eight years. Three runs have yielded two wins and a second. The loss came in the Duchess Of Cambridge at Newmarket when as a 4/9 shot she got turned over. She put it right when comfortably winning the Prix D’Arenberg at Chantilly a couple of weeks ago.

David Simcock fresh off a Group 1 double in Canada sends his 10 L Warwick maiden winner to take her chance. She was very good at the shallow end but here she’s in at the deep end on only her second run. She could be anything.

Not often you get the chance to back Ryan Moore at 33/1 in a G1 but that’s the opportunity today when he rides Richard Fahey’s Zuhoor Baynoona. A Yarmouth maiden winner she was third to Patience Alexander (Twiggy Wiggy second) at York in May and hasn’t run since.

John Gosden and James Doyle combine for Khalid Abdullah’s Tendu. She’ll hardly replace Kingman for stable stardom but she has advanced from a first run 7 L defeat to a 5 L second time out win on Kempton’s all weather surface.

The Irish filly could well beat the French filly but can either beat the English one. Visually Twiggy Wiggy was the eye catcher of the season. A win here and connections are talking about a trip to Paris next weekend for the Abbaye . The way she won last time you wouldn’t rule either out.

Recommendation : Twiggy Wiggy 6/4 win

Irish Champions Day 2 and Arc Trials Day

The Grey Gatsby returns having won The Irish Champions Stakes

The Grey Gatsby returns having won The Irish Champions Stakes

Cracking days racing yesterday at Leopardstown.

The action moves on to the Curragh today with another 3 Group 1’s with the limelight switching to the two year olds with the Moyglare Stakes for the fillies and the National Stakes for the colts.

In the Moyglare Cursory Glance represents the Leger winning combination of Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni. She comes here having run second to an extremely fast filly in Tiggy Wiggy in the Lowther at York a few weeks ago where she had Anthem Alexander back in third. Very decent form.

The other English runners Malabar and Osaila are both pattern race winners having taken the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood and the Princess Margret at Ascot respectively putting both in the window for this. They were both behind Cursory Glance in the Albany so have to turn over the form but both have gone the right way since.

Aidan runs four with the once raced Found being the pick of Joseph. She was an unconsidered 14/1 shot when she beat her stalemate Together Forever here last month on the bridle. This is a major step up in class but the way she did it last time suggests she mightn’t light up the gallops at home but saves her best for the racecourse. Simply A Star has the most experience having seven runs yielding one win and placed each time in the other six. There’s some decent form in those efforts. Second to Accepted (3rd in the Flying Childers at Doncaster on Friday) and third to Ainippe twice means she’ll outrun her price of 50/1.

The National is disappointing numerically with no horse there to pick up the €3000 sixth prize. It’s hard to see beyond Gleneagles though if there is to be a surprise, as we had yesterday with Australia, then Jim Bolger’s Hall Of Fame who already has the scalp of John F Kennedy (impressive winner of the Juvenile Turf yesterday) could be the provider.

In the Irish Leger Pale Mimosa can put it up to Leading Light while over at Longchamp for Arc trials day there’s plenty to keep an eye on.

Treve in the Vermille is vulnerable to the John Gosden pair of Pomology and Sultanina with Pomology preferred. Kingsbarns might fulfill his potential in the Prix Foy with Ryan Moore aboard who can also boot Adelaide home in the Prix Neil.

Recommendations :

The Moyglare Stakes Simply A Star 50/1 e w 

The National Stakes Hall Of Fame 16/1 ew 

The Irish Leger Pale Mimosa 5/1 win

Prix Neil Adelaide 5/1 ew 

Prix  Vermille Pomology PMU Price

Prix Foy Kingsbarns 12/1 win

 

 

Irish Champions Weekend

 

Crowd Watch on at Leopardstown at last years Champion Stakes

The crowd watch on at Leopardstown at last years Champion Stakes

As summer slips gently by racing goes into overdrive as a trio of top class festival’s begins. Irish Champions Weekend , Arc weekend in Paris and Champions Day at Ascot all but bring Europe’s pattern season to a close.

The inaugural Irish champions weekend comes with a real punch of quality. Ten Group races including five Group 1’s. A veritable feast of racing. €2.9 m of prize money up for grabs.

On Saturday at Leopardstown

Kilternan Stakes (G3) over 10 f for 3 yo and up Open. €100,000

Golden Fleece (G3) over 8 f for 2 yo Open. €100,000

Solonaway Stakes (G2)  over 8 f for 3 yo and up Open. €200,000

Matron Stakes (G1) over 8 f for 3 yo and up Fillies & Mares. €300,000

Champion Stakes (G1) over 10 f  for 3 yo and up Open. €1,000,000

On Sunday at the Curragh

Blandford Stakes (G2) over a 10 f for 3 yo and up Fillies & Mares. €200,000

Flying Five (G2) over 5 f for 3 yo and up Open. €100,000

The National (G1) over 7 f for 2 yo Colts & Fillies. €300,000

Moyglare Stakes (G1) over 7 f for 2 yo Fillies. €300,000

The St Leger Stakes (G1) over 14 f  for 3 yo and up Open. €300,000

Last year that we saw Australia take first taste of superstardom when he had 6 L to spare over Free Eagle in the Golden Fleece. He’s back again this time for the main event The Irish Champion Stakes. As you’d expect plenty of other stars will be on show Leading Light, Chiquita, Tapestry, Encke, Marrek, Gordon Lord Byron to name but a few.

It’s a weekend that cover’s all angles, top class older horses, the best of the classic generation and the establishment of the top juveniles. Sprinting, middle distances and stayers all catered for.

And the good news if further were needed, good fast ground with the sun shining to boot.

What a weekend it promises to be.

Recommendation : Be There

Sprint Cup

He wasn’t first choice for this in his stable.

He’s never won over 6f yet his best performance was over the distance in Hong Kong last year when beaten 5 L by Lord Kanaloa.

He comes here on the back of three straight wins the last two at top level, the Kings Stand and Nunthorpe .

He’s there to be shot at but his racing style means it’s impossible to that.

He loves to sit in and come with a late burst and scythe down the opposition and in Richard Hughes he has the pilot who can get it right, the man to deliver at the death.

The quicker the ground the better but good will do to allow him unleash that killer acceleration.

Age is on his side. Sprinters get better with maturity and he he’s learnt to preserve his speed until he needs it.

Eddie planned to keep him for next week to support Irish Champions weekend and run him in the Flying Five but it’s only right that we see him here in Group 1 company.

Is he the best sprinter in the world ? We won’t find out today.

What we will find out is that Eddie Lynam has the two best sprinters in the world right now.

Slade and Sole the most able of replacements.

Recommendation : Sole Power 7/2 win

Juddmonte International (Group 1)

Australia winning The Derby from Kingston Hill.

Can he be beaten?

Mukhadram as a four year old struggled when mixing it at top level. His best performance was here last year over course and distance in the G2 York Stakes. Twice beaten by Al Kazeem in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and The Eclipse he’s a different horse at five. Maturity now means he an Eclipse winner himself and he can’t be easily dismissed here as a result. Stretched to the limit of his stamina in the King George he’s now back his favoured trip and he is the benchmark for a 10f test.

Telescope has touched the flame but failed to ignite it. You know it’s there, we saw it at Ascot in the Hardwicke yet there’s a question about his attitude. Twice behind Frankel’s brother Noble Mission this season is still reliable form but does he really want do it at top level?

The circumstance of the race plays a huge part, weight for age matters and the concession to the three year olds is significant at this stage of the season. The last three year old winner of The International was Sea The Stars. Testament to the difficulty of winning the race for the younger horse. You have to be top drawer to do as a three year old. It’s why Ballydoyle are keen to run, to establish a superstar.

The Grey Gatsby winner of the French Derby is in someway the forgotten horse. His last run in the Grand Prix De Paris told us he’s not a 12f horse but the Prix Du Jockey Club showed us his trip is this 10f. The French Derby hasn’t worked out too well with both the second and third also beaten since.

Arod another three year old was no match for Australia at Epsom but yet he remains’ somewhat of an unknown quantity. Peter Chapple-Hyam sent him to Leicester for a 9 L confidence booster over 10f in July which should have him cherry ripe for this.

And then there’s Kingfisher not to be treated as a mug, he’s there on merit. He was an impressive Dee Stakes winner at Chester and he proved himself behind Australia when beaten 2 1/2 L in the Irish Derby. He will most likely be sacrificed as the pacemaker but he may well be very difficult to pass.

The ground will be good to firm which is just what Australia will want. He’s had a mid season break and put on some weight since we last saw him at the Curragh. Aidan has informed us he has a question mark about his level of fitness and this prehaps is the only hole to be found in him. We know how he is viewed in the pantheon of all time Ballydoyle greats and his Derby win’s have confirmed it to the public eye. It could not have been any easier at the Curragh.

The older horses Mukhadram and Telescope will make sure this has to be won. Arod is bound to have come on since Epsom and will get closer while The Grey Gatsby has course experience when winning The Dante here. Kingfisher will ensure this a true test but even if Joseph has to carry a few pounds overweight to match the belly of his mount it’s most likely we’ll see Australia prevail.

Recommendation : Australia 8/11 win

 

 

Arlington Million Day

Great chance of Irish success in Chicago as Ballydoyle throw three good horses at the Arlington’s big annual meeting.

First up in the Listed American St Leger is Eye Of The Storm. He’s a winner over the 16f trip already when beating Missunited (since a winner of the Lillie Langtry and 3rd in the Ascot Gold Cup) last year at the Curragh and comes here after a nice confidence booster when beating Roheryn in the Ballyroan (G3) last time out at Leopardstown.

Opposition seems light with last years winner Dandino not firing in the Hardwick Stakes or the Princess Of Wales Stakes this year. Suntracer second last year went down to The Pizza Man in the prep for this, The Stars and Stripes  and the latter may prove best of the home team.

Adelaide goes in the first of three G1’s on the card, the Secretariat. He was a shade unlucky last time in the Belmont Derby when going down a neck to Mr Speaker, another few strides would have seen him get up so he’s a deserving favourite. Aidan employs a pacemaker this time in the shape of Belisarius. Gailo Chop put the form in good light at Deauville today (4th at Belmont) in the G2 Prix Guillaume D’Ornano.

Looking at the Beverly D Kiyoshi didn’t uphold the form in Deauville , second to Euro Charline in the Woodcote recently at Ascot she didn’t fire in the G3 Prix De Lieurey today. This may open it for an ex Tipperary filly in the shape of Tannery (formely with David Wachman) winner of last years Ep Taylor (G1) at Woodbine now in the care of Alan Goldberg.

Magician is the Ballydoyle representative in the Million. He’ll be back on Laxis for the first time since The Breeder’s Cup Turf win of last year. He couldn’t cope with the soft ground at Ascot in the King George and that run is best forgotten. Previously at the Royal meeting he lost out to the Fugue (whom he collared at Santa Anita) with Treve a length behind. Fast ground is the key to him now. Real Solution the Manhattan winner is best of the home team.

Recommendations :

American St Leger : Eye Of The Storm

Beverley D : Tannery  

Secretariat Stakes : Adelaide 

Arlington Million : Magician