Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 3 December 2016

Gosden set to enjoy Golden moment in Champion duel

Wayne Bailey

Published 12/09/2015 | 02:30

Turret Rocks, under Kevin Manning, sweeps past Marenko (right) to claim the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster for Jim Bolger yesterday
Turret Rocks, under Kevin Manning, sweeps past Marenko (right) to claim the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster for Jim Bolger yesterday

If you happen to be the praying kind, you might consider giving Saint Medard a shout this morning. A French bishop born in the year 456, Saint Medard is the patron saint of weather and is often invoked against poor meteorological conditions, particularly rain.

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At this stage, the much anticipated clash between Epsom Derby winner Golden Horn and dual English/Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Gleneagles is getting a bit like Lanigan's Ball - so fingers crossed they both stand their ground in this evening's Qipco Irish Champion Stakes (5.45 Leopardstown).

The 1m2f contest, which has been brought forward by over an hour to ensure it takes place on the best possible ground, is surely the race of the year, with the majority of the field officially rated above 120.

Suffering

Having pulled out of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, John Gosden is keen to get another run into his stable star Golden Horn, which was last seen when suffering a shock 4/9 defeat to 50/1 outsider Arabian Queen in last month's Juddmonte International at York.

Aidan O'Brien is just as keen to get a race into Gleneagles considering the weather conspired against the colt three or four times already, although O'Brien has said that he'd like the ground to be good or better and will not take a risk if underfoot conditions are unsuitable.

Having specialised at a mile this year, jockey Joseph O'Brien admitted that their hand has been forced as the end of the season approaches and they are hopeful, but not certain, that Gleneagles will get a mile and a quarter.

Out of the pair, I reckon Gleneagles will be the one most affected by the heavy rain expected in Dublin overnight and when you combine the uncertainly over the trip, it leaves the Ballydoyle representative's odds of 4/1 or thereabouts looking a little short.

Golden Horn's star has faded somewhat since York but as Gosden pointed out, lots of great horses were beaten at least once and the defeat can be put down to the tactics.

Multiple Group One winners don't lose their ability overnight and I think some of Golden Horn's critics have been harsh. Expected to go off around 2/1, he's worth another chance this evening.

While he's got a bit to make up on official figures, Free Eagle is likely to pose the biggest threat to the selection. With a strike rate of 20pc, the Smullen/Weld combination at Leopardstown is always to be respected and the four-year-old saw off The Grey Gatsby in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot last time.

Having recovered from a stress fracture of his tibia last spring, he's lightly raced for his age and has been trained with this race in mind since that win.

At Doncaster, I'm very keen on Storm The Stars in the St Leger (3.45). With the Irish Champions Weekend taking place on this side of the water, the build-up to this classic has been somewhat muted but it's an interesting race with five of the eight runners all in with a shout.

Priced around 7/4, the William Haggas-trained colt put in a career best in the Great Voltigeur in which he battled with gusto to beat Bondi Beach.

Each-way

With a plum draw in stall one for the Betfair Supports Racing Welfare Handicap at Chester (4.35), Storm Lightning looks an each-way steal at 8/1 in the early markets.

A son of Exceed and Excel, Mark Brisbourne's gelding was out of sorts when finishing last in a handicap at Brighton last time but I'm willing to forgive that effort.

A course and distance winner here in June, the handicapper has dropped him 1lb to a mark of 79 but jockey Daniel Muscutt is entitled to claim another 3lbs.

Today's selections

3.25 Chester: Ejaazah

3.45 Doncaster: Storm The Stars

4.00 Chester: Dana's Present

4.35 Chester: Storm Lightning (e/w)

5.10 Chester: Yorkidding

5.45 Leopardstown: Golden Horn

6.20 Leopardstown: Legatissimo

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