Sunday 11 December 2016

Rock should have enough class in fascinating battle

Published 02/05/2016 | 02:30

Fascinating Rock was a deserved winner for Pat Smullen in the Champion Stakes. Pihoto: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile
Fascinating Rock was a deserved winner for Pat Smullen in the Champion Stakes. Pihoto: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile

Another intriguing clash between the winners of two major autumn Group Ones spearheads the bank holiday action at the Curragh.

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Found and Fascinating Rock squared off in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October. The Ballydoyle filly had already finished second in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Coronation Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes, so it was frustrating to see her come up short again at Ascot.

Nonetheless, Fascinating Rock was a deserved top-level winner for Pat Smullen (right) when the pair denied her and the Irish Derby victor Jack Hobbs so gamely in the Champion Stakes.

He was carefully placed by Dermot Weld last year, and the Curragh maestro will box cleverly again now. Encountering Found here may not have been envisaged, but the classy five-year-old is trusted to see her off in the Mooresbridge Stakes, a Group Three that he also won in 2015.

After Ascot, Found thwarted the brilliant Golden Horn in the Breeders' Cup Turf. She will doubtless be a more potent rival now under the visiting Ryan Moore than she was when a tame third here on her heavy ground return a month ago.

Still, Fascinating Rock is expected to be a pretty serious Group One performer this year.

Clearly, he will need to be pretty sharp, but, with the Tattersalls Gold Cup just a few weeks away, the likelihood is that Weld won't have left an awful lot to work on. Success Days is another of note in the 10-furlong contest, but conditions may not be quite soft enough for him.

Weld and Smullen are also trusted to deliver the nap with Footbridge in the concluding maiden. Placed in each of its starts either side of the year, this Zamindar colt is dropping back from a mile, and the suspicion is that will prove crucial.

In the Listed Tetrach Stakes, Michael O'Callaghan unleashes his exciting Blue De Vega. Race-fit rivals like Embiran, Awtaad and Alphonsus are respected, while Jim Bolger's Round Two is another useful sort.

Still, in winning its second and third outings as a juvenile, Blue De Vega looked an above-average prospect. If he were to make a successful comeback here under Colin Keane, he would earn himself a tilt at the French or Irish 2,000 Guineas.

In the Athasi Stakes, in which Found was turned over last year, Keane and Ger Lyons could combine to score with the top-rated Anippe.

Irish Independent

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