The first thing I look out for at the beginning of the week when making a short list of big players for the weekend ahead is the weather forecast. The problem is, even those doyens of the skies, the Meteorological Office, tend to get a six-day forecast wrong.
However, this week there can be no excuses, putting my ‘A’ level Geography pass hat on there is a high pressure system set to encamp over the UK and Ireland and that can only mean one thing for Doncaster, Leopardstown and Dublin – quickly drying ground!
Note: *All prices quoted below are ante-post prices. If your selection does not run you will lose your stake.
The Irish Champion Stakes was only instigated in 1978, but has a fabulous roll of honour, but the mid-80’s remains an era that real horse racing fans can salivate over. From 1982 the winner’s enclosure greeted King’s Lake (if you are not familiar with him go look at his duels with To-Agori-Mou on YouTube), Assert, Stanerra, Sadler’s Wells, Triptych and Indian Skimmer.
Then at the turn of the century Swain, Daylami, Giant’s Causeway, Fantastic Light (got his revenge on the mighty Galileo) and Sea The Stars.
Can you picture an imaginary field of those 13 champions lining up – wow!
This time around we could have a super horse to trump the lot in the form of Ghaiyyath and although there is little doubt he is the most talented entry on show and will win if reproducing his York International victory, it is now up to his rivals to try something different.
Aidan O’Brien knows how to play the team game, so why would he not put a spoiler up top to push the big horse through the first half of the race, instead of giving the big boy a soft lead up top. Of course you need a charge with a high enough cruising speed to do it. Rose of Kildare tried, but failed miserably.
Drying ground won’t be an issue for Charlie Appleby’s ace and those looking for a new kid on the block to challenge this monster could possibly turn to the likes of the unexposed Fancy Blue or Alpine Blue, but they both need a big step forward in tandem with the Newmarket raider taking one in the other direction.
The ground/weather could also have a major say in the outcome of the St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday.
Based on a fair weather week it will be interesting to see if Ed Walker commits English King to the oldest classic in the world instead of an outing across the English Channel having stated all along that the Lingfield Derby Trial winner needs top of the ground.
Was it merely just the final 300 yards that caused Irish Derby hero Santiago fail on a point of stamina or have we overlooked the fact that he was up against one of the greatest stayers in the modern era?
And will Hukum reproduce or even improve upon his Geoffrey Freer form on a quicker surface? The only time he encountered genuine top of the ground resulted in a distant third on his career debut.
The race obviously revolves around Pyledriver. He won on a fast surface as a juvenile on his career debut, but has been kept away from good to firm ground since. Being such a heavy-topped horse yet to fully fill out and mature, do we think some give in the ground is near essential for him to produce his best?
The four Group One events at the Curragh on Sunday will be of huge betting interest to me and the lesser event of that quartet, the Flying Five is likely to cut up substantially from the opening entry stage so taking a cut at an ante-post price may be a profitable action. At the moment, I’m looking at the two, Kurious and the more obvious Glass Slippers. Both will be glad to avoid Battaash again and a faster surface is a huge plus for both of them.
And I haven’t even mentioned the big handicaps from Wednesday through Sunday! Although I have to admit I have more than one eye on a young, unexposed charge in the extended six furlong all aged event at Doncaster on Friday; more of that later in the week!
*The latest odds are bang up to date on our new bet widget but please note: *All prices quoted above are ante-post prices. If your selection does not run you will lose your stake.
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