Friday 15 December 2017

Midtown may just edge Champion Stakes

Michael Fortune

Michael Fortune

It is some 30 years since the late Scottish entrepreneur Bobby Jack came up with the hugely ambitious format for the Champion Stakes. It was scoffed at in British circles but thankfully the Irish authorities went with it and it has become one of the great highlights of the Irish tracking year.

It has proved to be a great stepping stone to the BoyleSports Irish Derby and Champion winners Manorville Magic, Ardfert Mike and Shelbourne Aston have completed the same-year double while Razldazl Billy won it in successive years.

Can one of tonight's finalists at Shelbourne emulate those stars of the past? It will take less than 30 seconds tonight to fully decide this contest but the likelihood is that the dash to the first bend will largely decide the issue and the general consensus of opinion is that Sidarian Vega and Midtown Raffa will be engaged in that particular battle.

Although I am sure that Paul Hennessy with dispute that prediction given the presence of his two runners Barefoot Artist and Budgie Bypass.

The Graham Holland-trained Sidarian Vega has been given the inside slot but Moss O'Connor, trainer of Midtown Raffa, is delighted that his charge will be occupying the three box. If Midtown continues his recent fast starting then he can lead from the traps but can he hold the charge of Sidarian to the bend?

Barefoot Artist is much better from the inside but Budgie Bypass is well positioned in six. Both Riverside Pat and Paradise Maverik are likely to be doing their big running from the second bend.

A clash on the bend between the principals could change the outlook of the race but my marginal preference is for Midtown Raffa (9.57) to squeeze around the bend in front and to go on to victory from Sidarian Vega and Paradise Maverik.

The supporting card also features a number of potential headline contests and perhaps the Pat Guilfoyle-trained Laughil Duke (9.42) can come good in the Consolation Champion.

Ballyana Foxtrot can win the Limerick Derby qualifier for the third year in a row this evening.

Traffic alert

Patrons travelling from the north and west should steer clear of the Croke Park area on their way to Shelbourne this evening due to the Ed Sheeran Concert.

Owen McKenna may run Farloe Blitz in Irish Derby following a flying 18.44 for the sprint on Thursday. Another fast trial was the 28.26 from Graham Holland's Sidarian Teejay.

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