Monday 27 March 2017

Bewitched bid for Longchamp glory

Bewitched, here winning at Ascot last season, heads to Longchamp on Sunday
Bewitched, here winning at Ascot last season, heads to Longchamp on Sunday
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Kildare trainer Charles O'Brien confirmed yesterday that his star filly Bewitched will get another chance to prove her Group One credentials by tackling the mighty Goldikova in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp on this Sunday's 'Arc' card.

Having won a third Group Three in a row when denying Zoffany in the Ballycorus Stakes at Leopardstown at the end of May, the daughter of Dansili proved a major disappointment when sent off favourite on her first try against top-level opposition in the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot.

However, she was subsequently found to have suffered a pulled muscle and fared somewhat better when she reappeared in Haydock's Sprint Cup on September 3, keeping on to be eighth behind Dream Ahead.

Back in Group Three company over six furlongs at The Curragh the following week, Bewitched turned in a comprehensive performance to score under regular rider Johnny Murtagh.

On Sunday, she will return to seven furlongs for the first time since her Ballycorus triumph, with Dream Ahead again likely to be among the opposition.

"We've discussed it with the owners and decided to let her run," O'Brien said of the four-year-old, which is owned by his brother-in-law John Magnier.

"She never got a run at Haydock, but we were delighted with her last time.

"She goes on any ground, so that isn't a concern and we'll see how she gets on in what is going to be a very good race with Goldikova and Dream Ahead in there."

Goldikova, an imposing winner last year and victorious 14 times at the highest level, will be on a retrieval mission after defeat by Immortal Verse in the Jacques Le Marois in August.

The third home Sahpresa franked that form by landing the Sun Chariot Stakes on Saturday, so Goldikova will be hotly fancied to complete her preparations for a tilt at a fourth successive Breeders' Cup Mile in November on a positive note.

The going at the Paris venue is currently on the fast side ahead of the showpiece fixture of the European Flat season.

In an effort to produce good ground, officials have begun watering the track, though John Gosden has revealed that is unlikely to be enough to persuade him to pay the €100,000 fee to supplement his King George winner Nathaniel for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

As of yesterday's forfeit stage, 19 horses remain in the mile-and-a-half contest.

The favourite Sarafina was among those left in what is traditionally the definitive middle-distance event, as was the Aidan O'Brien-trained So You Think.

Now a best-priced 5/1 having drifted to as big as 9/1 on the exchanges in recent days, the Champion Stakes hero is one of six that the Ballydoyle handler still has in the Group One.

O'Brien has also allowed the name of the recent National Stakes winner Power to go forward for Saturday's Tattersalls Millions race at Newmarket.

And closer to home, First Lieutenant is an intriguing entry in Sunday's Grade Three Novice Chase at Tipperary.

A last-gasp novice hurdle winner at Cheltenham in March, Mouse Morris's exciting Gigginstown Stud representative is also engaged in a lower profile beginners' heat at Gowran Park on Saturday.

Gigginstown's Rathlin holds entries in the same two races. Another immensely promising prospect, Rathlin has recently switched from Philip Rothwell's Co Wicklow yard to the care of Morris in Fethard.

Meanwhile, Gordon Elliott's cross-channel plundering continued at Sedgefield yesterday when Manger Hanagment justified 8/13 favouritism under Tony McCoy in the novice hurdle at Sedgefield.

It was the six-year-old's fifth win on the bounce in Britain in little more than a month.

Irish Independent

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