Fame has class to hold off pretenders
The Irish St Leger is the highlight on a day of quality Flat racing at The Curragh that boasts the final two Group Ones of the domestic campaign.
Just prior to the St Leger, in which the breathtaking Gold Cup hero Fame And Glory bids to redeem his reputation after coming undone by today's rival Fictional Account in a trial last month, the Goffs National Stakes showcases an array of potential superstars.
Won by the likes of George Washington, Teofilo and New Approach in recent years, the prestigious two-year-old race promises to be hugely informative.
While the market for the juvenile contest remains quite open, though, there is a far more lopsided look to the main event. Fame And Glory is as low as 4/6 for the one-mile-six-furlong event, a price that doesn't reflect the true merit of his opposition.
Granted, Fictional Account, representing the four-horse Co Meath yard of Vincent Ward, may struggle to reassert her superiority over the favourite on soft ground and Waydownsouth might also come up short. However, any of the three British raiders could have the class to take advantage if Fame And Glory under-performs.
Mark Johnston's Jukebox Jury is rarely far away when stepped up to Group One company and ran out a facile winner of a French Group Two on good going last time. Behind him in fifth then was Ed Dunlop's Red Cadeaux. That one, a soft-ground specialist, reopposes here, and it's worth remembering just how impressive Tom McLaughlin's mount was when sluicing up in similar conditions over this course and distance back in June. Duncan is also a very able competitor.
Second over two miles in the Londsdale Cup, he had previously failed to stay the extra half a mile in the Ascot Gold Cup. Now that he reverts to the distance that he won the Yorkshire Cup over in May, John Gosden's charge cannot be discounted.
Still, while it may not be as comfortable as the layers expect for Fame And Glory, the former Irish Derby winner certainly sets the standard.
On the presumption, then, that Aidan O'Brien will have tightened a few screws over the past three weeks, he and Seamie Heffernan ought to enjoy another lucrative Saturday afternoon's work.
Heffernan and O'Brien will endeavour to initiate a big-race double with Royal Ascot victor Power in the National Stakes. Run out of it by La Collina in the Phoenix Stakes, Power, one of four Ballydoyle horses in the nine-runner field, has something to prove now.
The two to concentrate on may be Dragon Pulse and Talwar, both of which were supplemented earlier in the week. Jeremy Noseda's Talwar made all for a third win on the trot in soft ground over this seven-furlong trip at Sandown last time.
He is clearly a talented horse, but the fear would be that front-running tactics might render him vulnerable at this level. With that in mind, Dragon Pulse is fancied to emulate Pathfork's memorable 2010 triumph for Jessica Harrington.
Beaten a head by Vault on his debut in June, the Kyllachy colt went on to score in soft ground at Leopardstown, before travelling like a good horse en route to following up over seven furlongs back at headquarters last month.
With Vault well held in seventh that day, there can be little doubt that Dragon Pulse is improving at a rate of knots.
In the Blenheim Stakes, the debut of Sea The Star's Invincible Spirit half-brother Born To Sea adds intrigue, but Crusade may be the likeliest winner. Colm O'Donoghue's partner did everything right when scoring here two weeks ago, so he can be expected to build on that again now.
Dimona, from the in-form John Oxx stable, is another to keep on side. Second behind Zaralabad at Killarney, the three-year-old filly lines out in the September Handicap and she should go close now that she encounters slower ground once again.