Slade Power to take on Aussie superstar Lankan Rupee
Lynam inmate gets chance to prove best sprinter in world at Flemington
After Slade Power's stylish victory in Saturday's Darley July Cup at Newmarket, Eddie Lynam declared that his homebred five-year-old had shown himself to be the best sprinter in Europe.
It was a pretty accurate assertion made by way of a prelude to his confirming that all roads now lead to Australia, where the irrepressible Co Meath-based handler intends giving Slade Power the chance to prove himself the best in the world.
Lynam has his sights on Lankan Rupee, an Aussie sprinting sensation that he has designs on taking down in the VRC Sprint at Flemington on November 8.
Success in Melbourne would be some climax to a tale that took another fascinating turn last week before Slade Power ever got to Newmarket when it was revealed that he is the latest high-profile Irish-trained stallion prospect that Sheikh Mohammed has swooped for to stand at Kildangan Stud.
It would be a grand denouement for a horse bought back for a measly £5,000 at the sales in 2010.
Gordon Lord Byron proved by claiming the Group One George Ryder Stakes in March that our sprinters can hold their own in Australia, where a new ban on anabolic steroids will help level the playing field.
The VRC is one of the country's most prestigious sprints, and, in light of last week's sale, it is hardly a coincidence it's on Slade Power's agenda given that it is on Emirates Stakes day.
Whatever about him proving himself the world's best sprinter, Slade Power is now one of the best Irish sprinters of modern times.
It used to be a niche division that we struggled in for nearly 30 years, before the sporadic heroics of Aidan O'Brien's Stravinsky, Mozart and Starspangledbanner.
Maarek, Gordon Lord Byron and Sole Power have picked up the baton this decade, but Slade Power really is the ace in the pack.
With the ground on the slow side and his fellow Sabena Power-owned Sole Power duly scratched, holes can be picked in the form of Saturday's race.
However, the beauty of Slade Power is that he is so unflashy and uncomplicated, in contrast to many sprinting kingpins. Sole Power, for example, needs fast ground, five furlongs and to be delivered late; Maarek needs it soft; Gordon Lord Byron needs a proper test.
Fine margins separate the elite sprinters and they tend to be quirky, a point emphasised in 2013 by Lethal Force, a potent operator when he got an easy lead.
In tandem with Wayne Lordan's no-nonsense, unflappable riding style, Slade Power is brilliantly straight forward and versatile. He goes on any ground, he doesn't pull too hard, he has a great attitude and isn't tactically dependent, as we saw in what was a messy contest on Saturday.
Lordan found himself without cover from a long way out, yet Slade Power didn't get ruinously keen and went about his business professionally despite being in front without company for far too long.
The net result was that he backed up one Group One triumph with another, something that Starspangledbanner also managed in 2010, all of nine years after Mozart became the latest Irish-trained sprinter to achieve the feat.
Remember, Sole Power's three top-level wins have been punctuated by gaps of three years and 12 months, so it is no mean feat to do two-in-row.
Off a rating of 120 on Saturday, Slade Power won't have done enough to match Mozart and Stravinsky's peaks of 125 and 127, but he may get the pound needed to equal Starspangledbanner.
At the very least, he is the best non-Ballydoyle-based Irish sprinter since Committed, which won a Nunthorpe for Dermot Weld 30 years ago before securing successive Prix de l'Abbaye wins.
Lynam suggested that only Haydock's Sprint Cup on September 6 would be factored in before the journey Down Under.
However, there is another option worth considering, and that would be to let Slade Power now prove he has no peers over five furlongs by tackling the Nunthorpe on August 22.
He won a Curragh Group Three over the minimum trip last year, but he broke slowly and never recovered on his only other stab at five in last year's Nunthorpe.
The lack of a marquee win over five is the only asterisk alongside his supremacy right now, and the six-week gap to this year's York feature is ideal, with the added bonus then of a longer break ahead of his Australian adventure.
Since 1987, Mozart, Stravinsky, Oasis Dream, Cadeaux Generous and Ajdal all dropped in distance to do the July Cup-Nunthorpe double, so it can be done. Of course, none of those had won at Royal Ascot first, a blue-chip treble last completed by the King's Stand hero Never So Bold in 1985.
MULLINS HAS JAPAN IN MIND FOR GLOBE-TROTTING SIMENON
Simenon gained a deserved first success since completing his memorable Royal Ascot brace in 2012 with a commendable return to jumping under Paul Townend in Saturday's Kevin McManus Bookmaker Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary.
Willie Mullins' globe-trotting 10/11 favourite built on the promise of his back-to-form fifth in the Gold Cup at Ascot by seeing off his closest market rival Darwins Fox without too much fuss in the Grade Three.
The champion trainer hinted that the good ground specialist might not take in the Galway Hurdle if he is lumped with top-weight, stating that he is "in everything from the Irish St Leger to the American St Leger, and (the win) also opens up jumps races in America for him".
Intriguingly, he also added that next year's Nakayama Grand Jump could be another international target in the spring.
A race worth over €500,000, the Japanese showpiece was snared by Mullins and Ruby Walsh with the similarly fast ground dependent Blackstairmountain only last year.
FANNING REGAINS THE WINNING THREAD AT YORK
Martin Harley continued his fine run of form since returning from injury by driving Guest Of Honour to victory in Saturday's Group Two Summer Mile at Ascot for his boss Marco Botti.
The Letterkenny-born 24-year-old fractured four ribs and broke a bone in his neck when hurled to the floor at Lingfield in March. He returned to action last month, and Saturday's triumph was his 18th since then. Joe Fanning, born in Dublin but raised in Wicklow, is also enjoying a purple patch.
Mark Johnston's veteran jockey ended last week with winners at Haydock on Saturday and Carlisle on Sunday. He was then on the mark at Ayr on Monday before moving south to score at both Lingfield and Brighton on Tuesday.
Fanning kept his prolific run going back in the north at Catterick on Wednesday and then enjoyed a double at Newmarket on Thursday.
In the end, his luck ran out at Newmarket on Friday, but he regained momentum by taking the Silver Cup at York in a driving finish aboard Peter Hedger's Continuum on Saturday.
SANG TIGER ROARS TO VICTORY FOR LAMBE AT SLIGO
James Lambe enjoyed his first winner since March when Adrian Heskin brought Sang Tiger (10/1) through with a well-timed challenge en route to taking yesterday's two-mile maiden hurdle at Sligo.
The German-bred French import was having its third start for the Co Armagh handler, while in-form conditional Kevin Sexton rode his third winner in five days when steering Paul Flynn's The Ring Is King to a decisive victory in the Sean Graham Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle.
Stuart Crawford continued the raiders' excellent record at Perth by taking yesterday's opening maiden hurdle with the Anthony Fox-ridden Dr Moloney (4/1).
Larne-based Crawford and Fox nearly bookended the card with Backinthesaddle, which was just edged out by Theatrical Style, Don McCain's 11/8 favourite stretching its unbeaten run in bumpers to two under Noel Fehily.
GREY DAY FOR RYAN'S GATSBY AT LONGCHAMP
The Grey Gatsby failed to cope with the rain-sodded ground at Longchamp yesterday as he trailed in a one-paced sixth behind Coolmore's Andre Fabre-trained Gallante in the Grand Prix de Paris.
A mud-loving son of Montjeu, Gallante returned an SP of 33/1, having just held off the now familiar late surge of the Prix du Jockey Club third Prince Gibraltar, which was sent off odds-on favourite for the 12-furlong Group One. The winner, a full-brother to Aidan O'Brien's dual hurdle winner Plinth, was given initial quotes of around 16/1 for October's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
1 Winners that AP McCoy requires to match his old boss Martin Pipe's career tally of 4,191 after he drove John Flint's appropriately named Stonemadforspeed to victory in a lowly selling hurdle at Southwell yesterday.
The 19-time champion jockey, who is on duty at Newton Abbot today, looked set to hit the magic number in the next when he sent on the odds-on Retrieve in the straight, only for Co Cork native Aidan Coleman to thwart him with a game effort on the 6/1 shot High Tide.
TWEET OF THE WEEKEND
– Great to ride a double for my boss at Chester today. Thanks very much to everyone for all the messages.
Star apprentice Oisin Murphy acknowledges the well-wishers after collecting on Spectator and Comanchero for Andrew Balding. The brace brought his tally to five since he lost his claim at Sandown last Friday week, meaning he has now bagged 100 career wins in just over a year.