Tony Keenan with his list of Irish horses to see us through until the jumps start proper
Tony Keenan selects the horses to get us through to the jumps action
In previewing Irish Champions Weekend last month, I wrote about Aidan O’Brien’s domination of the Flat season,both home and away,and how the other main Irish Flat trainers had largely struggled.
Those circumstances didn’t quite transpire over the weekend itself;O’Brien and the UK trainers had five winners apiece while the other Irish yards had six between them so there were some green shoots ahead of the autumn campaign. This was especially the case for Dermot Weld and Jim Bolger who both had a pair of winners which will give them some hope as the bulk of the main backend action shifts away from Irish shores.
This remains the season of O’Brien, however,and when his three Group 1 wins over Irish Champions Weekend were put with Capri’s win in the English Leger it leaves the trainer on 18 Group 1 winners for the season.
This look-ahead to the key horses for the major remains races of the season necessarily focuses on the Ballydoyle team with American trainer Bobby Frankel’s 25 Group 1 wins record very much in play.There are, however, a handful of other Irish runners worth keeping on side in the near-term.
WINTER (A O’BRIEN) Possible targets: Prix De l’Opera (Chantilly, October 1st), Champion Stakes (Ascot, October 21st)
The late revelation thatWinter had missed time ahead of her run in the Matron Stakes left a bad taste in the mouth and Aidan O’Brien really should have made the betting public aware of her training setback long before the eve of the race given the high-profile nature of the filly. In any case, it looked like she was undone by fitness on the day, travelling best and hitting 1/9 inrunning before giving best to the much less-talented Hydrangea in the finish.That run should leave her spot on for next time with a step back up to 10 furlongs potentially on the cards; it is possible that Churchill could return to the straight mile for the QEII while she is put into the longer race on Champions Day,the track configuration likely to be more suitable to her gears than his grinding style.
HAPPILY (A O’BRIEN) Possible targets: Prix Marcel Boussac (Chantilly, October 1st), Fillies’ Mile (Newmarket, October 13th)
Happily is already a Group 1 winner in the Moyglare over Irish Champions Weekend but there is a strong suspicion she will prove even better on a sound surface; she toughed things out against Magical at the Curragh but by far her most visually impressive win came on the fastest going she encountered in the Silver Flash at Leopardstown. Certainly she is bred for better ground – her brother Gleneagles was infamously withdrawn from races where the going was deemed too soft – and that she has been able to do so well on softer reflects positively on her latent ability.
HIGHLAND REEL (A O’BRIEN) Possible targets: Arc (Chantilly, October 1st), Breeders’ Cup Turf (Del Mar, November 4th)
One of the stars of the early part of the season when winning the Coronation Cup and Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Highland Reel is at risk of becoming a forgotten horse in light of a disappointing effort in
the King George and his absence since.
Both of those are purely ground related though as he looked all at sea in the Ascot feature and possible runs in the Juddmonte International and Irish Champion Stakes were shelved when the weather turned against him.The form of his win at Royal Ascot looks better now with Group 1 winners Decorated Knight and Ulysses in the frame behind him and he will go to Paris and/or Del Mar a fresher horse than most. Ground remains vital to him – his figures with firm in the description read:11511211 – and he can add a seventh Group 1 win when underfoot conditions are suitable.
MARY TUDOR (W MCCREERY) Possible target: Silken Gilder Stakes (Navan, October 8th)
The aforementioned Happily and Magical have already shown the form of the Debutante Stakes in a good light,that pair fighting out the finish of the Moyglare next time, but the filly that shaped best on the day was the third-placed Mary Tudor. Racing keenly in rear,she looked unsuited by the slow pace and did well to finish within two and a half lengths at the end. It was disappointing that Willie McCreery swerved the Moyglare with her,especially as the ground was on the soft side, but she remains a maiden and perhaps a more patient approach will pay off in the long-term. Still, a pattern success before year’s end is hardly out of the question with something like the Silken Gilder (moved to Navan with the Curragh closed for the season) a suitable race.
PERSUASIVE (J GOSDEN) Possible target: Sun Chariot Stakes (Newmarket, October 7th)
Including a UK-trained filly is blatant rule- bending but Persuasive was particularly eye-catching on her recent Leopardstown run when set too much to do behind Hydrangea. In truth, she’s probably been unlucky not to make the breakthrough at the top-level yet, her efforts in the last two runnings of the Matron Stakes suggesting she is up to the grade and she of course missed a sizable chunk of the season when only making her return in late-July. Lightly-raced enough to still be on the improve, the Sun Chariot looks an ideal race and she will go there as one of the freshest runners in the field; indeed, she might even improve again for last time.
SAXON WARRIOR (A O’BRIEN) Possible targets: Royal Lodge (Newmarket, September 30th), Racing Post Trophy (Doncaster, October 28th)
Ante-post markets suggest The Pentagon