Fame can book his Gold Cup passage
The much-anticipated clash between Fame And Glory and Rite Of Passage will materialise a month earlier than expected at Leopardstown tomorrow.
Ever since Aidan O'Brien revealed the possibility of a tilt at the Ascot Gold Cup for the 2009 Irish Derby winner last month, Fame And Glory has been contesting favouritism with Dermot Weld's charge for the two-and-a-half-mile Group One. As of now, he is the clear market leader at odds of 5/2, while the best price about Rite Of Passage, such a game winner at Ascot 12 months ago, is 9/2.
The layers' stance will come into sharp focus in the Seamus and Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes tomorrow. With the benefit of a run, Fame And Glory is odds-on to inflict a first Flat defeat on Rite Of Passage in the Listed contest.
On all known form, O'Brien's five-year-old, which will again be partnered by Jamie Spencer following the purchase of a share in the horse by the rider's main patrons Jim and Fitri Hay, ought to win. He had no trouble over a little shorter than tomorrow's one mile and six furlongs when scoring at Navan in April, and a drop of rain on the forecast good to firm going wouldn't put him up or down.
The real test will come when faced with most of another mile at Ascot, and in that respect, a big show from Rite Of Passage would be significant here. Never less than exhilarating first time out, Pat Smullen's mount would only need to finish a decent second to reassure connections of a bold bid for a repeat success at the royal fixture.
Were Rite Of Passage to win, Fame And Glory would surely be aimed elsewhere next time. Of the duo's seven rivals, there is no shortage of options for a place, with Nebula Storm, runner-up to Fame And Glory at Navan, probably the one on the up.
By the time the €30,875 feature begins, the Ballydoyle outfit might have already doubled up. Secretary Of State will take plenty beating under O'Brien's son Joseph in the juvenile maiden, while Zoffany sets the standard in the Ballycorus Stakes.
Imperial Rome, David Wachman's Coolmore-owned representative here, will be a tough nut to crack with the benefit of three runs this term. However, Zoffany was a classy juvenile, his Group One triumph in the Phoenix Stakes his fifth in all.
The day's nap selection is Eirland in the Visit Toals.co.uk Maiden Hurdle at Downpatrick. Dizzy Rascal and Katys Girl will keep Eirland honest, but Noel Meade's charge was desperately unlucky over course and distance last week. Having coasted into the lead on the turn for home, he stumbled at the back of the last flight, depositing Paul Carberry on the turf. If he is none the worse for the outing, a clear round should suffice now.
The beginners' chase on the seven-race programme boasts a number of smart types for this time of year. Norwich Flyer and So Determined are two with decent prospects, but it is the Colin Bowe pairing of Model County Lass and Representing that demand most respect.
Model County Lass is just preferred, simply because she already has the benefit of a run over the bigger obstacles. Five times a winner in point-to-points, bumpers and over hurdles, the Definite Article mare only just failed to get up on her fencing debut at Kilbeggan two weeks ago.
Earlier, Liam Burke can make the long journey north from his Co Cork base pay when he saddles Captain Dash, fourth at the track last week, in the maiden hurdle.