Simon Holt: French fancy
Channel 4 Racing commentator Simon Holt fancies Almanzor to win a fascinating renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes.
Almanzor is rated good value in a fascinating feature at Leopardstown
IDAHO will start a deservedly short-priced favourite for Saturday's Ladbrokes St Leger but, while very much the form pick, he is not overly appealing as a betting proposition.
One of three declared runners for trainer Aidan O'Brien, the son of Galileo boasts strong Classic form after a third and a second behind Harzand in the Epsom and Irish Derbys before finishing with gusto to wear down stable-companion Housesofparliament at York last month in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, long renowned as the best Leger trial.
However, Idaho (Seamie Heffernan) has not always looked totally straightforward and, with his stamina to prove over an extended mile-and-three-quarters, he could be a risky odds-on bet.
On the other hand, finding one to beat him is not easy. Housesofparliament should run another good race after being ridden with conviction at York, and Colm O'Donoghue's mount has proven stamina after his Bahrain Trophy defeat of recent scorer Platitude with Harrison third and Harbour Law fourth at Newmarket in July. He shouldn't beat Idaho on that form, but it will be no surprise if he makes the frame.
O'Brien's third runner Sword Fighter (Donnacha O'Brien) boasts even more stamina on the strength of his game victory from Harbour Law in the Queen's Vase (The Tartan Spartan seventh, Ormito 11th) at Royal Ascot, and a more recent fifth in the Goodwood Cup was another decent staying effort against older rivals.
Muntahaa does not look so stoutly bred but lasted a mile and five-and-a-half furlongs well enough when a workmanlike winner at Chester in handicap company last time and could be open to further improvement.
Paul Hanagan's mount was earlier a strong-finishing third behind Across The Stars (Housesofparliament fourth) in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, but a line through the winner of that race who could finish only third himself behind Idaho and Housesofparliament at York (Harrison fourth), suggests he has a bit to find.
Ventura Storm and Ormito, first and second in a Listed event at Hamilton in July, make up the field and also look to have considerably weaker credentials on the form book compared to the favourite.
Earlier, JUDICIAL is fancied to maintain his good ratio of wins to runs in the Ladbrokes Portland Handicap.
Trainer Julie Camacho has done extremely well with this former Roger Charlton inmate who has scored twice this season at Thirsk and Chester (over this unusual distance of five-and-a-half furlongs) so that he now boasts a career record of six victories from just 11 starts.
Judicial can be forgiven his unplaced run at York before the Chester win as he raced alone on the disadvantageous stands side while, before that, he reared at the start when unplaced at Musselburgh.
Given a good break under Graham Lee, he looks sure to be thereabouts with the back-to-form Highland Acclaim, a winner at Epsom recently, fifth in this race last year and potentially well handicapped, the one I fear most.
Meanwhile, Leopardstown will stage the race of the season as the Group One Qipco Irish Champion Stakes has attracted a stellar line-up including the dual Derby winner Harzand (dropping back in distance), the King George hero Highland Reel, last year's runner-up (to Golden Horn) Found and the high class three-year-old filly Minding, already a five-time Group One winner.
There is also a potent overseas challenge through New Bay and ALMANZOR, the last two winners of the Prix de Jockey Club (French Derby) and, while this may be a race to watch and savour rather than to stake heavily on, I cannot resist suggesting the latter who was very impressive in the Group Two Prix Guillaume D'Ornano last month.
Almanzor is in good hands as his trainer Jean Claude Rouget has been churning out winners across the Channel this year and the son of Wootton Bassett, who was a 20/1 chance when achieving Classic glory in June, looked a bit special when producing an exceptional turn of foot at Deauville to pick up old rival Zarak with the English-trained Royal Artillery in third.
Posted at 1150 BST on 09/09/16.
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