Irish Eyes: No stopping Ranger
Irish Eyes returns to pick out the best bets on a stellar Leopardstown card on day one of Irish Champions Weekend.
Next Best: Awtaad, 6.10 Leoaprdstown
Each-Way: Radanpour, 4.35 Leopardstown
When legendary Irish stud master Joe Foley and his associates devised a plan to host a Champions weekend in Ireland, never in their wildest dreams could they have envisaged attracting not only the largest field and best field for a Qipco Irish Champion Stakes but what is, unequivocally, the single best Flat race ever held on Irish soil.
Flat racing in Ireland is essentially regarded by the paying public as more of a business then a sport, in comparison to NH racing which attracts significantly larger crowds at meeting such as Galway, but if today's card fails to get record numbers thorough the turnstiles for Qipco Champions Day, then nothing will.
The opening race on the card is a €30,000 fillies' maiden and Wild Irish Rose would have got the vote were it not for her drawing the 16 stall and whilst that may not stop her, it certainly is of no assistance and it's possible that the unfashionably bred I'm So Fancy might be worth a small interest at 22/1 with Sky Bet.
The next, the Champions Juvenile Stakes, has seen four runnings to-date with Aidan O'Brien having won each and every one. He is represented this afternoon by Douglas Macarthur and given the tangible and hugely significant sums invested in Ballydoyle by joint-owner Marcus Jooste's Mayfair Speculators, you get the feeling this race has been pencilled in as the crowning moment for the son of Galileo.
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Having cost £1.25m guineas, a win in what doesn't look a particularly strong Group Three, followed by some 'unbelievable' quotes from his trainer and promotion to clear favouritism for the Derby would prove extremely timely in advance of the upcoming yearling sales. For all of those reasons, Douglas Macarthur simply cannot be opposed but at a best-priced 1/2, he's only one to add to multiple bets.
Following three wins in three starts Radanpour took his place in last year's Irish Derby. That was a race too far however and proved to be his last start as a three-year-old.
He put a couple of decidedly average runs earlier this season behind him when he got his head in front at Bellewstown on his last start wearing a visor for the second time. That has been replaced by first time blinkers for his first handicap start this afternoon in the €150,000 'Petingo'.
It remains to be seen how he will fare in handicap company off 98 but he and Botany Bay look the best options in this race. At a best-priced 10/1, a chance is taken with Radanpour however, as not only has he landed a plum draw but he also has the assistance of the best jockey riding in the UK or Ireland this season in the shape of Pat Smullen.
The fourth race, the €100,000 Group Three Enterprise Stakes looks a match between the two trainers that are likely to dominate today's card in Aidan O'Brien and Dermot Weld who are represented by US Army Ranger and Zhukova respectively.
The former was deeply disappointing when only fourth in the Royal Whip having been sent off evens favourite. However, he can be forgiven that in retrospect given that he was coming off a break having previously packed his three race career (and Derby second) into a nine-week period. That was a steep learning curve and he is expected to have improved significantly from the Royal Whip and it will be a huge blow to his future stallion prospects if he cannot win this.
The Matron Stakes features a rematch between the Coronation Stakes first and third Qemah and Alice Springs with the unbeaten Persuasive thrown in as well in addition to the Irish 1000 Guineas winner Jet Setting. Alice Springs was beaten under two lengths at Royal Ascot, despite not getting a clear run, and provided the ground doesn't turn soft on the outer course, she rates the each-way value here with the dead eight runners – at the time of writing – at 11/2.
The ground will suit Awtaad in the Boomerang Stakes and following his Irish 2000 Guineas win, he finished third in the St James's Palace Stakes and eighth in the Sussex. Despite the latter run, he was beaten a mere five lengths and realistically a repeat of either of those two runs should see him go close here.
Sussex Stakes third Ribchester and sixth Lightning Spear have since advertised the form whilst even the last horse home, Richard Pankhurst who was five lengths off Awtaad, won the Group Two Hungerford last weekend. The application of a first-time tongue tie is an obvious concern, but he hasn't run as if his wind is at him just yet so he gets the benefit of the doubt.
The Qipco Irish Champion Stakes, meanwhile, is simply a race to savour.
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