St George to devour lukewarm Majesty's Plate field
The Flat race so grandly titled Her Majesty's Plate has failed to capture the imagination in recent years, and tonight's renewal of the Down Royal event is no different.
In 11 editions since 2004, nine favourites and one co-favourite have prevailed, with six of those returning at odds-on.
An extended 12-furlong conditions race, it again fails spectacularly as a contest this evening, with a paltry four runners set to line-up and Aidan O'Brien's Order Of St George likely to trade at a much shorter price than any of the aforementioned odds-on shots.
A son of Galileo that raised $550,000 at the Keeneland Sales as a yearling, Order Of St George went down fighting on his reappearance, failing by just a short head to topple his smart, race-fit stablemate Bondi Beach in a mile-and-six-furlong Curragh Group Three on Irish Derby weekend. Both horses are now St Leger candidates after leaving the admittedly below-par Forgotten Rules trailing.
Order Of St George is rated 109 as a consequence, so tonight's three rivals will be competing for second behind Joseph O'Brien's mount.
At this stage, it is surely time that the powers that be reconsider the race's current format, as it lacks any significant appeal as a spectacle or a betting heat on a perennial basis.
In the preceding three-year-olds' handicap over an extended 10 furlongs, David Marnane's Sheeba strikes as nap material. A six-runner affair that sees Mick Halford's narrow Roscommon winner Monolight top the weights, this is reasonably competitive.
However, Sheeba has plenty going for him. A Dundalk winner off a mark of 76 in January, he has since progressed gradually, finishing a fine third to Ger Lyons' Toccata Blue in a fair event at Leopardstown before emerging a clear second best to Lyons' Vale De Sol at Navan two weeks ago.
With Sheeba ridden to get home on his first try at this trip that day, Vale De Sol got first run and wasn't for catching once it picked up a head of steam.
Sheeba ultimately stayed really well and drew clear of the rest to prove his stamina in no uncertain fashion. The handicapper has rewarded him for doing so with a 2lb penalty to take him to 80, but he has the scope to prove the assessor right under Connor King here.
Earlier, Kevin Prendergast's Sliabh Luachra gets the nod to step up on her Fairyhouse debut in the seven-furlong maiden. Sixth over six furlongs on that occasion, the daughter of High Chaparral is sure to be better over further, so she ought to go close for Chris Hayes in what is a poor race.
In the Magners Irish Cider Fillies' Handicap, the Jessica Harrington-trained Buzz Off Barroso should score for Niall McCullagh. A narrow runner-up on her last two starts, her form is solid and a race of this nature ought to be well within her range.
On an even less inspiring card over jumps at Wexford, the Martinstown Handicap Chase is the most valuable pot with a prize fund of €11,500. Eoin Doyle's top-weighted Royal Chief has fluffed its lines a couple of times recently, so it might pay to side with the 11-year-old Irish Soul instead.
Tipperary handler John Ryan has won with two of his last four runners, and Irish Soul is well treated on old form if Ryan Treacy can get any sort of tune out of him. The veteran has been running well enough of late to suggest that there is another day in him.
Meanwhile, there was a shock result in the Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown as Deauville edged out 1/3 favourite Sanus Per Aquam in a thrilling finish.
Jim Bolger hailed Sanus Per Aquam as the "reincarnation" of his sire Teofilo after his recent course win and he was widely expected to extend his winning record to three over seven furlongs.
He was slowly into stride for Kevin Manning and pushed along to settle on the heels of his pacesetting stablemate Gleine before kicking on at the top of the straight.
Joseph O'Brien set out in pursuit aboard 9/2 shot Deauville; the pair were locked together in the final strides and it was the Ballydoyle horse which found a little extra.
Tanaza made it two wins in as many starts as she claimed Group Three honours in the Silver Flash Stakes.
Miss Gossip set the early pace in company with Turret Rocks but it was evens favourite Alice Springs which looked the most likely winner turning for home. However, when Pat Smullen gave the signal, the Dermot Weld-trained Tanaza (7/4) produced a nice turn of foot down the centre of the track.