Saturday 24 February 2018

Bolger's Stellar can light up Her Majesty's Plate

Jockey Kevin Manning on Stellar Mass. Picture: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile
Jockey Kevin Manning on Stellar Mass. Picture: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

A quartet of live contenders from Jim Bolger's resurgent stable will descend on Down Royal tonight, including none other than his Irish Derby third, Stellar Mass.

Something of an unlikely hero by now, this late-developing son of Sea The Stars looked like one to avoid after failing to score in his first seven starts, albeit at times he kept good company.

However, he finally landed a Curragh maiden in early June, before enjoying a fine success here at the Maze venue in the valuable Ulster Derby.

That might have reasonably been expected to be a peak performance for a horse that had struggled to get off the mark, but Stellar Mass then went and denied the Derby sixth Red Verdon to secure third spot behind Harzand in the Irish equivalent. It was a commendable turn that illustrated how much he has come on, so it will be a surprise if Stellar Mass doesn't build on it by plundering the €29,500 prize in Her Majesty's Plate this evening.

The key to his progression in his last three starts has seemed to be the step up to 12 furlongs, and he goes two furlongs further here. Chances are that will play to his strengths, and he is fancied as nap material to collect.

Of his four rivals, Dermot Weld's Charming Kitten is the most interesting. A graded winner in America, the six-year-old is making its European debut, having won either side of the New Year in the US.

He could prove a formidable operator, but he must concede 15lbs to Stellar Mass here, and that won't be easy.

In the extended 10-furlong handicap that follows, Bolger's Brontide will be popular on the back of its narrow Leopardstown win. Johnny Murtagh's Full Court Press, though, might be the best option in this.

Having only just prevailed at Roscommon in May, this three-year-old then finished second to Bolger's Ceol N Nog at Navan, before dancing home at Ballinrobe on Monday. That was over 13 furlongs, so this is a different test for Full Court Press, but his Roscommon victory was over a similar trip.

As such, he appeals here under a five-pound penalty, with Murtagh's more-than-capable daughter Caroline again taking 7lbs off.

Murtagh's Grand Coalition may be the horse to beat in the opening juveniles' race, but a chance is taken in that on Michael O'Callaghan's pacey Navan winner, Giselle's Charm.

Later on, the Kevin Prendergast-trained Sufoof is marginally preferred over Elusive Approach and The Yellow Bus in a tight seven-furlong fillies' maiden.

At Wexford, Willie Mullins switches his recent Killarney winner King's Wharf back to fences for the conditional jockeys' handicap chase. Niall Kelly's mount obliged over flights at the Kerry track off a rating of 96. He gets in here off 95, and could be hard to beat now that he has found his form.

In the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle, a chance is taken on Tellthemnuttin for local handler, Willie Codd.

This is a pretty open contest, but Tellthemnuttin has been running well in defeat. Crucially, Dylan Robinson's mount is dropping back a little in trip, which is expected to suit.

Meanwhile, Wexford native Aidan O'Brien has opted to declare both Highland Reel and Sir Isaac Newton for tomorrow's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

With the hot favourite Postponed ruled out of the Ascot Group One on Wednesday, the once iconic 12-furlong event lacks a marquee contender, and the Ballydoyle genius has put himself in a position to capitalise. Michael Stoute's Dartmouth just about shades the market lead at 2/1, but Highland Reel, which will be ridden by Ryan Moore, is as short as 9/2 with some firms to turn the tables on his Hardwicke Stakes conqueror.

Seamie Heffernan will take the reins on Sir Isaac Newton. Successful in the Wolferton Handicap over 10 furlongs at the royal meeting, the Galileo colt followed up in a Curragh Group Three at the end of June.

He will be trying tomorrow's trip for a first time in the £1.15m feature, and can be backed at 16/1 to prevail. John Gosden's Derby fourth Wings of Desire (4/1) is one of five others declared.

Elsewhere, O'Brien's St James's Palace Stakes and Eclipse runner-up The Gurkha remains on course to clash again with its Ascot foes at Goodwood.

Hugo Palmer's Galileo Gold and Kevin Prendergast's Awtaad have also been left in Wednesday's Sussex Stakes, so, thrillingly, the three Classic winners are poised to do battle once more.

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