Young guns to give Rip a wake-up call
AIDAN O'Brien's Rip Van Winkle is only third favourite as he heads to Ascot to defend his mile crown in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Saturday.
Rip Van Winkle showed his versatility when landing the Group One prize 12 months ago, but after failing to justify favouritism in the Irish Champion Stakes over 10 furlongs at Leopardstown last time, the bookmakers clearly believe he won't have the pace to cope with three-year-olds Makfi and Canford Cliffs.
O'Brien has thrown a curve ball into the mix by leaving in Irish Champion Stakes and Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco, but it's doubtful that he will line up. Ballydoyle have also entered last year's Dewhurst winner Beethoven, Windsor Palace, Air Chief Marshal and Steinbeck, so a decent gallop looks assured.
Bookmakers have unanimously inserted Canford Cliffs as favourite. Richard Hannon's colt finished third behind the French-trained Makfi in the English 2,000 Guineas in May before gaining his revenge over a below-par Makfi in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
They both won on their next start -- Canford Cliffs in the Sussex Stakes while Makfi caused waves in beating Goldikova at Deauville -- and both will arrive in Berkshire at the top of their game. Makfi pleased his trainer Mikel Delzangles in a workout yesterday morning.
"He had a little exercise and everything went fine," said Delzangles. "He is pleasing me as much now as he has done all year, definitely.
"I'm not too worried that it has been dry at Ascot, it was fast ground when he won the Guineas at Newmarket. The Breeders' Cup is his main objective, rather than this week. It is very exciting to be coming up against Canford Cliffs again, it should be a good match. Christophe Soumillon will be on board again."
Godolphin supplemented Celebration Mile winner Poet's Voice and have also left in Rio De La Plata, which appears to be running right up to his best form of late. Mark Johnston has left in Awzaan, while Pat Eddery will be hoping Hearts Of Fire can bounce back after a below-par run at Salisbury.
O'Brien has four entries -- Samuel Morse, Treasure Beach, Eskimo and Factum -- in the Group Two Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes, in which the highly vaunted Frankel will be bidding to give Henry Cecil a seventh success in the race. Khalid Abdullah's Galileo colt, currently pressing Saamidd and Pathfork for favouritism in next year's English 2,000 Guineas at around 8/1, heads to Ascot with a clear chance of making it three wins from three starts, following a debut success at Newmarket.
Meanwhile, Eoin Griffin has confirmed Chris Hayes will take the ride on English Cesarewitch favourite Admiral Barry at Newmarket on October 16.
The five-year-old has risen from a mark of 65 in June to a new perch of 99 after his impressive recent win at The Curragh, and Griffin could not be happier with his preparation.
"He's still on target. He only got a 4lb penalty the last day so if Bergo runs that leaves him on 8st 9lb," said Griffin.
"It's obviously a competitive handicap and you need a lot of luck in running and with the draw, even though it is two and a quarter miles. He came out of his last race very well so we are hoping he gets there in good form. It is more than likely Chris Hayes will ride him, he knows him well."
Queen Elizabeth II Stakes -- Paddy Power bet: 5/4 Canford Cliffs, 11/4 Makfi, 100/30 Rip Van Winkle, 16/1 Poet's Voice, Rio De La Plata, Steinbeck, 20/1 Hearts Of Fire, 25/1 Awzaan, 40/1 bar.