Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Elusive Kate to take chance in Matron

Aidan O'Brien
Aidan O'Brien
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Saturday's quality-laden Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes card has received a further boost with Elusive Kate confirmed as an intended starter in the Matron Stakes.

For all that the twilight programme's Coolmore-sponsored Group One promises to be a tremendous race, the John Gosden-trained filly is the only one of the 15 entries that could be considered a heavyweight campaigner at this level. Were the 15/8 ante-post favourite to skip the €200,000 mile contest, it would leave it with a substandard hue, but her presence will lend real value to its status as a premier event.

"I think she is going to run on Saturday," Patrick Barbe, racing manager for Elusive Kate's owner Teruya Yoshida, said yesterday.

"The ground was a bit too firm for her (when seventh to Moonlight Cloud) in the Jacques le Marois and the race didn't really suit. Usually in the summer, the ground in Ireland is softer than it is at Deauville. We wouldn't want it too heavy. If it is on the soft side of good that would be perfect."

When readily seeing off David Wachman's Duntle – first past the post before being demoted in last year's Matron – at Deauville prior to her Marois defeat, Elusive Kate's second triumph in the Prix Rothschild brought her Group One haul to four.

Kenhope finished third that day and her French trainer Henri-Alex Pantall is also expected to allow the Coronation Stakes runner-up take her place in the Matron.

With the benchmark performer Say, one of three Ballydoyle entries, and other unexposed local contenders like Willie McCreery's Fiesolana, Tommy Stack's Wannabe Better and Eddie Lynam's Viztoria all in the mix as well, the Matron looks a worthy supporting highlight on the biggest day of the Foxrock track's summer term.

Gosden's Yorkshire Oaks heroine The Fugue will lead the challenge against a robust home defence in the 10-furlong marquee feature, though Roger Charlton is also reconsidering allowing Al Kazeem participate in the light of an unexpectedly wet weather forecast.

Declaration Of War, which had Al Kazeem in third in the International, has hardened into as low as 7/4 favourite after Aidan O'Brien revealed that he will run, while his unbeaten Kingsbarns will also make a belated return in what is shaping up to be an intriguing edition of the country's most internationally acclaimed Flat race.

Jim Bolger's Irish Derby winner Trading Leather – second to Declaration Of War at York – is also an intended starter.

The going at the suburban venue is good to firm and officials elected to stop watering yesterday, with rain forecast to hit the area in the coming days.

"We've ceased watering now. There could be some rain coming in on Friday or Saturday, so we'll just have to monitor things as we go along," said the course chief executive Pat Keogh.

Coolmore has issued another upbeat report on last year's Irish Champion Stakes third St Nicholas Abbey as he continues his recovery from major surgeries on a fractured pastern.

However, Ken Condon revealed that Sacred Aspect, a Listed-winning juvenile for his Curragh stable, has been retired after suffering a comparable injury.

"She hurt herself in the last furlong (when beaten in the Debutante Stakes) and fractured a pastern," said Condon.

"She's still in hospital and won't race again, unfortunately. It's a similar injury to the one St Nicholas Abbey got. Hopefully, she can be saved for breeding purposes. It's a big pity as she was a cracking horse."

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