Lockinge Stakes (G1)

The Hannon factor added to the Godolphin factor makes Toormore favourite here. Between the pair they have won five of the last six runnings with only Frankel in 2012 interrupting the sequence. As a partnership Night Of Thunder did the business for them last year when Toormore ran a fine race in third. At G1 level it was his best run of the season. Therafter he bagged two G2’s beating Dutch Connection in the Lennox Stakes (form he franked on his return this year) and going to Turkey to win the Topkapi Trophy. In between he was beaten in the Queen Anne, Jacques Le Marois, Prix De La Foret and Hong Kong Mile.

He’s worth taking on.

Two who should be considered are Euro Charline and Arod.

Euro charline with Frankie in the plate on her way out for the Matron Stakes last September

Euro Charline with Frankie in the plate on her way out for the Matron Stakes last September

Arod ran third here last year and like the favourite scored at G2 level in the Summer Mile. He then ran a cracker to get within a 1/2L of Solow in the Sussex. That form reproduced here would be enough. Connections were confident enough of his capabilities to send him to Australia to contest the Cox Plate and Emirates Stakes. The trip didn’t work out. Maybe it was the exertions behind Solow or maybe he just wasn’t a traveller. In any event it’s forgivable and he deserves another chance.

Euro Charline has scored at G1 though we’ve to go back to the Beverley D in August of 2014 for that. It’s what she done lately is the encouraging piece. On a spring trip to Dubai she ran second in the Balanchine. That was a prep for the Dubai Turf where she repeated the dose chasing home Japan’s Real Steel. She must be in good form as last year on her return from Dubai she didn’t see a racecourse until July when she ran second in the Falmouth. Marco Botti must feel she’s in good form to bring her back two month’s earlier this year. She has the added benefit of Ryan Moore on her back.

There both worth backing.

Recommendation: Arod 20/1 EW, Euro Charline 20/1 EW

2000 Guineas (Group 1)

Air Force Blue running away with The National Stakes from Herald The Dawn. Picture courtesy of Alan Crowhurst and Getty Images.

 

Punters are being asked to take 8/11 about Air Force Blue as we speak, not great value when compared with Gleneagles return of 4/1 last year.

Both were the dominant two-year olds.

Air Force Blue was a triple G1 winner as a juvenile while Gleneagles had one in the bag. It would have been two had he not been disqualified by the stewards in France in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Arc day. They had different campaigns with the only common thread being the National Stakes where both won however Gleneagles time was 4 seconds quicker than Air Force Blue’s albeit on much quicker ground.

Air Force Blue enters the race rated 124 as opposed to Gleneagles mark of 116 last year. That goes some way to explaining the bookmakers stinginess but are either the rating or the price justified? In the last decade Frankel, Dream Ahead and New Approach all entered their three-year careers rated 126. Top miler, top sprinter and top middle distance athletes of their generations.

Is Air Force Blue up there with them?

He was visually impressive in quickening in the Phoenix Stakes and in the National Stakes and to a slightly lesser degree in the Dewhurst though it was never in doubt.

He did get beaten. In the Coventry 2nd time out by the Mark Johnston trained Buratino who caught him for toe when he didn’t settle. Can that happen again? Unlikely he’s settled in all after that though there is a risk that freshness could be a factor.

There’s a sense he hasn’t been tested at two (immaturity being the issue at Ascot) and a sense he could have put on the afterburners if required, which would have put his rating up there at the 126 mark.

It didn’t happen because he didn’t need to. The others couldn’t live with the ease of his acceleration. He glided by. As a three-year old the same might not be the case. The opposition is bigger, stronger and will also have matured.

His times weren’t fast last year, the G1’s won in slower than standard. In the first, the Phoenix he beat Washington DC who started favourite on Wednesday at Ascot in the Pavillion Stakes over 6f. He was well beaten.

Also of concern is the ability of his sire War Front’s progeny to carry their form from two to three. War Command was a very exciting two-year old who didn’t reproduce at three.

So can he get beat and if so by who.

Of course he can, sure it already happened and now he wears headgear, a tongue-tie and noseband to mitigate the worry about him getting the trip.

All that adds up to the price not being justified but the question of the rating can’t be answered until we seen the run. For racing let’s hope the figure stands up as it’s rare to see a champion miler in the making but speaking from the pocket the one’s that might catch him out are this weeks plunge horse Hugo Plamer’s Galileo Gold and Godolphin’s Buratino who after beating him at Ascot couldn’t live with him at the Curragh in the National. He then ran second to Shalaa in the Middle Park, not shabby form at all.

Then there’s the other Godolphin runner Jim Bolger’s Herald The Dawn, second in the National ahead of Buratino and 3 1/4 Ls behind Ultra when pulling too hard in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. He has  3L’s to make up on Air Force Blue. We might be in for a Kingman moment, beaten here in the Guineas the only blot on the copybook in an otherwise flawless career.

If we are to have a Night Of Thunder then we may well Herald The Dawn. Watch out for the white cap.

 

Recommendation: Herald The Dawn 33/1 e.w 

 

 

 

 

Pattern Racing World Championships 2015 – Part 2

In the previous post we revealed the winners of the first 3 categories of the Pattern Racing World Championships 2015.

Now we’ll reveal the other 3 categories;

Sire, Owner and Breeder.

Below are the top 5 in each category.

Remember – For a G1 placing you get:

Points                1st = 10 pts,                    2nd = 7 pts,                 3rd = 5 pts.

4. Pattern Racing World Championship Category – Sire

Galileo is the Pattern Racing World Champion.

Photo by Martyn Hayhow courtesy of Getty Images

 

Place

 

Sire

2015 Points Won  

Place

2014 Points Won
1  Galileo (IRE) 257 1 261
2  Dubawi (IRE) 220 6 88
3  Deep Impact (JPN) 169 2 131
4  Tapit (USA) 124 5 92
5  High Chaparral (IRE) 105 3 102

Galileo tops the bill for a second year in a row. His dominance isn’t as pronounced as in 2014 where he had a 130 point cushion over the opposition, effectively 13 G1 wins. This year it’s been reduced to 37 points. It’s not that Galileo’s powers have diminished, he’s only 4 point’s off where he was last year. It’s more about the rise of the younger generation. He had 14 G1 wins from 10 individuals with 11 2nd’s and 8 3rd’s.

Dubawi 6th last year jumped to 2nd this year improving his tally by a whopping 132 points. He had 11 G1 wins from 10 individuals with 10 2nd’s and 8 3rd’s.

Deep Impact, Tapit and High Chaparral all bettered their performances of last year with 6, 5 and 4 G1 winners from 5, 4 and 3 individuals.

Click here for the full list                                             Click here for the full detail

5. Pattern Racing World Championship Category – Owner

Godolphin are the Pattern Racing World Champion.

 

Photo by Vince Caligiuri courtesy of Getty Images

Place Owner Points Won
1  Godolphin 372
2  Coolmore 330
3  H H Aga Khan 88
4  U Carrot Farm 82
4  Wertheimer & Frere 82

Godolphin had 12 trainers in 5 countries contribute to their tally. The star was new recruit John O’Shea in Australia whose scored 120 points for them. They won in total, 16 G1’s with another 16 2nd’s and 20 3rd’s. This was a tight race with Godolphin’s global operations just getting the better of Coolmore, the predominately Irish based operation.

Coolmore had 5 trainers contribute with Aidan O’Brien’s 252 point tally for “the lads” being the loins share. They won 18 G1’s with another 15 2nd’s and 9 3rd’s.

The dominance of the leading pair is apparent by the distance back in 3rd to the Aga Khan. The margin between 2nd and 3rd is 242 points equivalent to 24 G1 wins. The Aga Khan had 3 home based trainer’s provide him with 5 G1 win’s, 4 2nd places and 2 3rd places.

In joint fourth, Japan’s U Carrot Farm had 8 trainer’s provide their total of 3 G1’s, 6 2nd’s and 2 3rd’s including raids in Australia where they hauled a G1 win and 2 places.

The brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer matched their Japanese counterparts with 2 trainers amassing their total winning, 6 G1’s (5 courtesy of Solow) placing 2nd once with 2 3rd places.

Click here for the full list                                              Click here for the full detail

6. Pattern Racing World Championship Category – Breeder

Darley are the Pattern Racing World Champion.

 

Photo by Darrian Traynor courtesy of Getty Images

 

Place Breeder Points Won
1  Darley 241
2  Northern Farm 107
3  Juddmonte Farms Ltd 101
4  Wertheimer Et Frere 94
5  Northern Racing 87

It’s no surprise that Darley come out on top. The strength behind Godolphin will soon to be subsumed into one operation under the tutelage of John Ferguson, the new head of Godolphin. Darley were breeders to 24 horses who scored points with 9 G1’s winners ,13 2nd’s and 10 3rd’s.

Northern Farm had 11 score for them winning 5 G1’s with 4 animals and recording 6 2nd’s and 3 3rd’s.

Juddmonte had 6 score with 2 individuals winning, 8 2nd’s and 5 3rd’s.

The Wertheimer brothers had 5 score winning 7 G1’s with 3 individuals adding 2 2nd’s and 2 3rd’s.

Northern Racing in Japan had 9 score with 3 winning G1’s, 6 2nd’s and 3 3rd’s.

Click here for the full list                                               Click here for the full detail

 

Pattern Racing World Championships 2015 – Part 1

After 312 Group/Grade 1’s we can announce this years winners in the Pattern Racing World Championships.

We have 6 categories now, Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Sire, Owner and Breeder.

Below are the top 5 in each category.

Remember – For a G1 placing You get 10 points for win, 7 for second and 5 for third.

1. Pattern Racing World Championship Category – Horse

 

Photo by Rob Carr courtesy of Getty Images

American Pharoah the Grand Slam winner is the Pattern Racing World Champion.

Place Horse Points Won
1  American Pharoah (USA) 67
2  Golden Horn 54
3  Solow 50
4  Criterion (NZ) 49
5  Flintshire 43

2015 was a vintage year with the first four home beating the winning score of 47 set in 2013 by Wise Dan and Beholder jointly and matched in 2014 by Kingman.

American Pharoah won 6 G1’s this year.

He added to his two Grade 1 juvenile wins by firstly taking the Arkansas Derby. He the won the American Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. He followed up in the Haskell Invitational.

He was a tired horse in the Travers when beaten by Keen Ice but he was imperious at Keenland in the Breeders Cup Classic. Any doubts about the victory where he had 6 1/2 L to spare over the 100/1 shot Effenix were well and truly put to bed when Effinex went on to win the Clark Handicap next time out. Tonalist beaten 12 L at Keenland further franked the form when winning the Cigar Mile. Their victory’s meant in the Classic, American Pharoah had annihilated a field full of G1 winners.

It stamped him exceptional.

Golden Horn was also a true star. He may have lost to two fillies in Found who beat him in the Breeders Cup Turf and Arabian Queen in the International but an Epsom Derby, Coral Eclipse, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de L’Arc De Triomphe proved him the best middle distance turf horse since Sea The Stars in 2009, a testament to his quality.

Solow was certainly the king miler. The five-year old who hadn’t won a G1 prior to 2015 started with the Dubai Turf and Prix d’Ispahan before stepping back in trip to add a trio of mile races in the Queen Anne, Sussex Stakes and QE11.

Criterion was the most versatile. He started the year running 3rd over 6.5f in the Canterbury Stakes and finished in the same place over 2 miles in the Melbourne Cup. In between he squeezed in 2 wins at home in Australia in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Caufield Stakes and also made trips to England for the Queen Anne and Hong Kong for the Cup.

Flintshire was also a world traveller winning the Sword Dancer at Saratoga running 2nd 4 times in the Sheema Classic, the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, The Arc and Hong Kong Vase. He was also 3rd in the Coronation Cup.

Click here for the full list                                                 Click here for the full detail

2. Pattern Racing World Championship Category – Trainer

Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)

Chris Waller is the Pattern Racing World Champion.

 

Place

 

Trainer

2015 Points Won  

Place

2014 Points Won
1 Chris Waller 279 2 237
2 A P O’Brien 277 1 266
3 Todd Pletcher 254 3 190
4 Chad C Brown 196 5 134
5 Bob Baffert 176 4 171

Chris pipped Aidan O’Brien a nose. That’s a reversal of last years first and second where Aidan’s winning total was 266. Both surpassed last years winning figure. Chris had 16 G1 winners, Aidan had 17. It was the placed efforts that separated the two, 12 seconds and 7 third places for Chris were the decider over Aidan’s 11 and 6. Winx was Chris’s top performer with 3 win’s and a second (37 points) while Found was Aidan’s best provider with 1 win and 4 seconds (38 points).

In America Todd Plecther won 15 G1’s placing him in the same position as last year where curlina was his top performer (37 points). Chad Brown’s star pupil was Big Blue Kitten (39 points) beat Bob Baffert for 4th, a reversal on last year who had American Pharoah (67 points).

All the top five bettered their totals of last year.

Click here for the full list                                            Click here for the full detail

3. Pattern Racing World Championship Category – Jockey

 

Photo by Rob Carr courtesy of Getty Images

Ryan Moore is the Pattern Racing World Champion.

 

Place

 

Jockey

2015 Points Won  

Place

2014 Points Won
1 Ryan Moore 270 2 210
2 John R Velazquez 222 3 201
3 Javier Castellano 201 4 195
4 Joel Rosario 175 1 227
5 Frankie Dettori 171 14 100

The globe-trotting jockey won 15 G1 races across the world, England 5, Ireland 1, France 2, Hong Kong 2, Japan 1, USA 2, Canada 2. He was also was placed in Australia and Dubai. Found and Legatisimmo contributed 31 points each. His achievement is all the more incredible considering he was out of action for 11 weeks with a serious neck injury sustained on 9th July only making his comeback on the 24th September. He came back with a bang recording 11 of those wins on his return.

John Velazquez the 2013 champion improved on his third position of last year notching up 11 G1 victories. Javier Castellano improved a place to third with 15 winners while Joel Rosario, last years champion, fell to 4th. Frankie Dettori’s rejuvenation brought him into the top 5 with 7 G1 wins.

Click here for the full list                                                    Click here for the full detail

The remaining categories which we shall deal with in a later post.

Hong Kong International Races (Group 1)

A cracking card to finish off the season.

The internationals are favoured in the Vase with Flintshire back to defend his crown. He come’s here in the form of his life having run second to Treve in the Grand Prix De Saint Cloud in June, winning the Sword Dancer at Saratoga in August and running second to Golden Horn in the Arc in October.

Cannock Chase, Highland Reel, Daryian, Ming Dynasty and Cirrus Des Aigles also travel from Europe with Preferment making his way from Australia.

Michael Stoute’s Cannock Chase won the Canadian International last time out at Woodbine in the hands of Ryan Moore who this time is claimed by Aidan O’Brien to ride Highland Reel, winner of the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington in the summer. Last time out the Irish horse ran third in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley where he had Preferment in behind in ninth. Previously Chris Waller’s charge was a winner of the Turnbull Stakes.

Daryian for Alain Du Royer-Dupre won the Prix Eugene Adam at Massion Lafitte and was second to New Bay in the Prix Guillaume D’Ornano at Deauville in August. The Qatar Racing owned three-year old Ming Dynasty’s will be having only his sixth run of his life (beaten only the once) and comes here on the back of  a win in the Prix Du Conseil at Chantilly on very soft ground in October while the veteran Cirrus Des Aigles will be having his sixty-seventh start and comes to Hong Kong for the sixth time.

Wouldn’t you love to see him win it. His magic day’s may be behind him but let’s not forget he won the Prix Ganay in May beating Al Kazeem and if you go back to June 14 you’ll find he had 2 L to spare over Flintshire in the Coronation Cup at Epsom. Age may have caught up with him but his class means he’s still capable of causing an upset and at the prices he’s the each way value.

In the sprint there’s a similar case to be made for Sole Power, now the elder lemon, who arguably had his best run ever when running second behind Lord Kanaloa here two years ago.

In the Mile Ryan Moore will renew his partnership with the Japanese colt Maurice on whom he won the Mile Championship at Koyto. They’ll have to overcome local favourite Able Friend beaten in his prep here a couple of weeks ago however Esoterique may provide Andre Fabre who turned seventy this week a belated birthday present.

In the Cup Free Eagle returning to 10F is the choice.

It may prove better value to take local prices so put PMU on your docket.

Recommendation:

The Vase : Cirrus Des Aigles e w (PMU)

The Sprint : Sole Power e w (PMU)

The Mile : Esoterique e w (PMU)

The Cup : Free Eagle win (PMU)

Breeders Cup Classic (Grade 1)

 

Not quite a match but it really should be.

American Pharoah and Gleneagles have been stand out three-year olds in America and Europe this year.

Their meeting here in the biggest race of the year hasn’t caught the public imagination. Bored with the will he won’t he run, the public has lost faith in Gleneagles especially after being beaten at Ascot in the QE11. Bubble burst.

In the States the opposite has happened. American Phar Continue reading

Getaway video clip

The Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes (G1)

 

Will he won’t he?

It’s been the story for the second half of the season for Gleneagles. Bad ground at Goodwood, York, Deauville and Leopardstown have meant he hasn’t seen a racecourse since Royal Ascot when he won the St James’s Palace Stakes.

The one Aidan described as the best miler he’s ever trained has been the subject of much frustration for the racing public. Prior to Ascot wins in the Guineas and Irish Guineas, which preceded a top class two-year old campaign, stamped him king miler of his generation. Yet for all his promise he has been denied the chance to measure himself against the older generation. For connections that’s a commercial opportunity missed for his stud value.

Ballydoyle have been nothing but consistent about him. Aidan O’Brien has declared him for The International Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes only to walk the course on both occasions before pulling him out. They won’t risk their prize asset on anything but good ground. The likelihood for Ascot on Saturday is good to soft. That’s short on what is required. Aidan will again walk the course tomorrow afternoon before making a final decision.

Do you compromise? The ground won’t be fast. The temptation to run produces a dilemma. If he runs and wins that place at stud is guaranteed at top dollar. He’ll have beaten the year older Solow, a top drawer performer at the top of his game.

Should he lose the cost in stud reputation mightn’t be too high. After all he’s a fast ground horse who’ll rely on his class to get him through. There’ll be no real knock to reputation in getting beaten.

There is another choice, the last chance saloon, the Breeders Cup Classic at Keenland on dirt in two weeks time where he’d take on the best of the Americans including American Pharoah. He’s available now at 14/1 to achieve that. That’s reflective of the doubt of his participation given the uncertainty about where or if he’ll run. More of the will he or won’t he but reality is options are fast running out.

He might be retired without another run or we might see Gleneagles race at four.

Today there’s still the possibility of him doing the double proving Aidan’s assertion, “he’s the best miler I’ve  ever had” but with the upgrade to “he’s the best I’ve ever had”.

 

Recommendation: With A Run – Gleneagles Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes (2/1)

Small Double : Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes (2/1) & Breeders Cup Classic (14/1) 

 

Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe

Golden Horn after winning at Leopardstown

Golden Horn after winning at Leopardstown

Treve’s bid for history has in the last 48 hours gone from some certainty to some doubt judged by the drift in the market from odds on to odds against. Is the market right?

She looked imperious in the Prix Vermille 3 weeks ago when she absolutely smashed the field with the release of her tremendous turn of foot. Thierry Jarnet could hardly contain her. She wanted to cruise, she wanted to travel but those around her were incapable of coming near matching her stride. She made good fillies including Arabian Queen who beat Golden Horn at York look very ordinary. When she was finally given her head she flew and in a matter of strides it was all over. She sauntered up Longchamps home straight digging deep into the very soft turf with each step lifting her further and higher giving her the chance to extend her stride to the full. Magnificent to watch.

Her trainer Criquette Head has timed her season beautifully. Prior to the Vermille she had two spins around Saint Cloud in the Prix Corrida and Grand Prix De Saint Cloud giving her the perfect preparation for this third Arc tilt. Unlike last year everything has gone right and all credit to her trainer as she comes here in the form of her life.

So why has the market got the jitters?

It was after all the same weekend we saw the Champion Stakes and the Prix Vermille. Within 24 hours of Golden Horn’s success at Leopardstown the market decided that Treve’s Vermille performance put considerable distance between her and her all her market rivals. Maybe it was the controversial finish at Leopardstown that clouded the judgement. Golden Horn you felt always had the measure of Free Eagle even if he did put him out of the race.

It’s the ground is the great leveler.

Golden Horn’s owner has expressed the opinion his colt would easily beat Treve on fast ground. Considering last year’s Prince Of Wales’s Stakes it’s a statement not without foundation. Treve couldn’t let herself down on the lighting quick ground at Royal Ascot that day and up against a top class filly who totally loved the surface The Fugue easily had her measure.

The issue here is the ground while very much coming the way of the Golden Horn camp it is still not what he really really wants, quick, lighting quick. That’s the surface that brought out the best in him in the Derby and Eclipse when he could hear his feet rattle. It was not so at York when Arabian Queen turned him over in what was akin to Japan’s Rugby World Cup performance against South Africa. John Gosden’s view has been they got the tactics wrong on the Knavesmire rather than the horse just couldn’t reproduce his speed on a surface less than quick.

So the ground, likely to be good, won’t be either’s first love, the questions are then who’ll like it more than the other and will that be enough to floor the rest of the field.

As ever the Arc produces the best middle distance horses of the last few years to compete against each other. This year is no different. It’s regrettable no Japanese challenger has emerged however New Bay who was given an impossible task in the French Guineas when trying to come from last to first (nearly making it) then showed his class by winning the French Derby. He’s since won on heavy at Deauville and put in a very smooth performance in his prep over course and distance in the Prix Neil.

Free Eagle surely can’t keep revving the engine in the last two furlongs. When he came upsides Golden Horn at Leopardstown he looked to be in top gear and it’s hard to imagine his stamina will stretch another two furlongs. Found will pose more of a threat. She was forgotten in the controversy but she ran a fine race to be second and will surely benefit from the step up in trip. She’ll also benefit from the weight for age and fillies allowances from the field. Mention must also be made of Tapestry the Yorkshire Oaks winner of last year (where she beat Taghrooda) who made a highly encouraging return to the track in the Blandford Stakes.

Found leaves the ring at Leopardstown

Found leaves the ring at Leopardstown

Of the others Flintshire returned to winning ways in America in the Sword Dancer having chased down Treve here last year. The three-year old Erupt did exactly that in his first four runs but hated the soft ground in the Prix Neil. Eagle Top was beaten a nose by Postponed in the King George who then ran a faster time than Treve in the Prix Foy. There all good horses.

As ever the Arc will produce a cracking race. Treve has to match Corrida (1936 & 1937 winner) as the only mare to win it as a five-year old. Golden Horn or New Bay on the other hand would join a long list of winning three-year old colts. Should either prevail they would be the 47th to do it. Found would be the 13th three-year old filly. History is not on Treve’s side.

The draw often is a feature in the Arc. Treve is drawn in the middle in stall 8 which means she might encounter traffic problems. Golden Horn and Found must overcome wide draws from 14 and 15.

With the pacemaker drawn in 2 New Bay breaking from stall 5 is given a considerable advantage. He can break and track the pacemaker and when she falls away take control of the race and steal a march on them. If Treve’s trapped in a pocket there’ll be serious questions asked of her turn of foot. She’ll no doubt answer and with Golden Horn, Tapestry and Found coming there too it promises to be mouth watering finish. New Bay can hold on.

Recommendations: New Bay 5/1 win 

                                        Found and Tapestry coupled on the pari mutual e/w

 

Irish Champion Stakes (G1)

Picture courtesy of Getty Images and Koji Hirano

Don’t be surprised if the description of Leopardstown ground this morning, good to firm, turns to soft or even heavy by tomorrow morning. The rain in Dublin began to fall around mid afternoon on Friday. By tea time it was enough to turn the ground yielding at Leopardstown. If it continues as predicted by race time we might have had 50mm fall on the track.

Ballydoyle have been consistent in not running Gleneagles on bad ground and although push has come to shove its most likely he’ll be withdrawn. The participation of Golden Horn is also very questionable as his trainer John Gosden has said he’d let him take his chance on a surface no worse than good to soft but if the heavens opened he would walk the course before making a final committment.

If John’s gives the thumbs up after his stroll then Golden Horn will go off an even shorter favourite. His aura of invincibility was blown away at York when going down to Arabian Queen and surely it was the give in the ground that was his downfall. The Derby and Eclipse winner gave his all but that exceptional turn of foot we’d seen at Epsom and Sandown was blunted by the rain-sodden surface.

Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle could well handle it however that is still an unknown. He ran well to be third in the Champion Stakes last year on heavy ground and although it was a very good effort he couldn’t run down Nobel Mission or Al Kazeem.

If Gleneagles come out Coolmore are reliant on Found and Highland Reel. The predicament here is both of them are also fast ground horses.

Found missed the 1000 Guineas because of the ground and was sent to the Curragh to race in lesser company on heavy ground the next day (Aidan was desperate to get a run into her). She was beaten 2L by Iveagh Gardens (not seen since but due to contest the Matron Stakes later on) and then ran second to Pleascach in the Irish 1000 Guineas. She followed up with another second to Ervedya in the Coronation Stakes and a couple of weeks ago beat Answered impressively on a horrible day at the Curragh. It rained as much that day however the rain came late and didn’t get into the ground as it will here.

Highland Reel prospects of handling the surface must be as questionable as Gleneagles. We’ve seen the best of him in his last two runs. At Goodwood in the Gordan Stakes he relished the quick surface and was even happier when rattling home in the Secretariat on Arlington Million day on a rock hard track in Chicago.

Pleascach likewise restored her credentials in the Yorkshire Oaks. Her win in the 1000 Guineas was followed by a defeat by Curvy in the Ribblesdale and a below par run in the Pretty Poly a week later. At York she put that right when getting the better of Covert Love on a good to soft surface.

Last years winner The Grey Gatsby is capable of doing it again. Circumstances have not fallen his way this year however he refuses to throw in a bad run. Third at York in the International, second in the Eclipse and very unlucky not to collar Free Eagle in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes he could once again grind it out as he did last year against Australia.

The forgotten horse is the seven time G1 winner Cirrus Des Aigles. Tough as teak he added the last to his collection when he beat Al Kazeem 2L in the Prix Ganay on very soft ground in early May. He’s run once since when coming last of four in the Prix D’Ispahan (beaten 5 1/2L by Solow) on good ground in late May. He’s a horse who comes into his own in Autumn.

With no sign of an ease in the rain there really can only be one trainer enjoying wine with dinner tonight thinking I’m glad I came. If Corine Barande-Barbe has her star right, and she will, then Cirrus Des Aigles can add an Irish Champion Stakes to accompany the English one he already has. Granted he has to overcome age to make it G1 number eight but his toughness, durability and most importantly his love of the ground give him a shout here way beyond his current price. Don’t expect it to last if the top two defect.

Recommendation: Cirrus Des Aigles 11/1 win