| 4.7°C Dublin

O'Brien's Cape crusader crashes Champion party

Cape Blanco produced a storming performance to 'Rip' up the script in the Tattersalls Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

Although an Irish Derby winner in his own right and second only to the brilliant Harbinger in the King George at Ascot, the three-year-old was the second string to the Aidan O'Brien bow.

Johnny Murtagh elected to ride Juddmonte International winner Rip Van Winkle, who was facing a rematch with his narrow York victim, the Henry Cecil-trained Twice Over.

But everything in the six-runner field had to play second fiddle to Seamie Heffernan's mount.

Setting a scorching pace, Cape Blanco was soon several lengths clear of Sea Lord and the opposition never really got a look in. O'Brien was going one better than his late, great namesake Vincent in recording a sixth success in the Group One event.

He said: "He's a very good horse and was unbeaten as a two-year-old. We always thought 10 furlongs on nice ground would be his best and that's what he had.


"He's progressing and maturing with every week that goes by.

"He moves brilliantly and has lots of options now, including the English Champion Stakes and the Breeders' Cup in America."

O'Brien bagged three other winners on the Leopardstown card, including the Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes with Lillie Langtry, who got up very late in the day to deny British raider Spacious.

O'Brien said: "Johnny gave her a masterful ride. Her next race will be in the Prix de l'Opera in France. We'll have a look at that."

But there was a reverse for the Ballydoyle maestro at Haydock as hot favourite Starspangledbanner could only finish fifth behind Markab in the Betfred Sprint Cup.

Only the second seven-year-old to lift this prize after Boldboy in 1977, Henry Candy's charge showed just how far he had come since leaving Freddie Head's stable in France and starting off in this country at Lingfield.

He showed plenty of zip to make all and hold the challenge of Lady Of The Desert. Starspangledbanner was only fifth.

Candy said: "He is a very happy horse now and he is turned out every day -- he started off here (in Britain) in a seven-furlong handicap rated about 80.


"He has now won a Group One and it is incredible how some horses improve -- mind you 99.9pc of them don't."

A tilt at the Prix de l'Abbaye was mentioned for the winner in the immediate aftermath but it is by no means certain he will head to Paris.

Criquette Head-Maarek's Fuisse prevailed in a blanket finish for the Prix du Moulin in which Paco Boy could finish only fourth.

Well beaten behind Makfi in the Prix Jacques le Marois when last seen, the four-year-old dumped Stephane Pasquier on the way to the start and did a lap of the Longchamp track, causing a lengthy delay.

Siyouni set only a steady pace with Godolphin's Rio De La Plata for company. Richard Hughes was sat in third but when the race began in earnest Paco Boy had nowhere to go.

Rio De La Plata finally wore down the long-time leader inside the final furlong but with less than 100 yards to go, Fuisse found an electric turn of foot to get up in the shadow of the post.

Paco Boy was just over a length behind in fourth but an even bigger disappointment was French Guineas and Derby winner Lope De Vega, who never threatened.