Sunday 15 December 2019

Greats like Australia are a treat for Irish racegoers

Betting Ring

Joseph O'Brien with Australia
Joseph O'Brien with Australia
Wayne Bailey

Wayne Bailey

Back in the mid 90s, I was sitting watching Bret 'The Hitman' Hart smash a chair over Stone Cold Steve Austin's head on the tele one Sunday morning, when my late father threw my coat at me and told me to come up to Leopardstown if I wanted to see some real entertainment.

The 'People's Champion' Danoli had been declared for The Hennessy Gold Cup and although I was only sixteen, I knew that the chance to see some real racing greats doesn't come around too often. So on a cold February morning, we made our way up to the racecourse with a flask of hot whiskey in tow to keep us warm on the five-mile stroll from Ballybrack.

The betting ring was busy and Imperial Call looked the one to beat at even-money. But when push came to shove in the last mile, Danoli just kept on giving and outstayed Jodami to win by one and-a-half lengths at 6/1. My father commented on how well Danoli had travelled, and the advertising executives from Toyota cars must have agreed, as they launched a billboard campaign just a couple of weeks later with the slogan 'In a perfect world, we'd all travel as sweetly as Danoli'.

Leopardstown has seen some proper legends cross the line over the years and Dubliners are in for a real treat this evening as Australia, which travels just as sweetly on the flat as Danoli did over jumps, goes to post for this evening's Irish Champion Stakes (6.50) as part of the newly established Irish Champions Weekend.

Famously described by Aidan O'Brien as the best he's ever trained, I foolishly opposed the dual Derby winner a couple of times this season in the hope that he'd been over-hyped but there's no doubt about it, the son of Galileo and Ouija Board is the real deal. He'll probably go off in the region of 1/3 so from a betting point of view, it's mostly a non-event although there are never any certainties in this game and it's worth remembering that his dam was beaten in this race at 11/4 in 2006, while his sire shocked all of us when losing at 4/11 in 2001.

Across the water, Kingston Hill's St Leger bid (3.50) was thrown into doubt on Thursday when trainer Roger Varian said he may not head to Doncaster if the ground ends up fast due to a lack of watering. In my view, Varian has become a bit too precious at this stage and racing journalist Paul Haigh was right a number of years ago when he suggested that 'firm-ground horses should have rights too' after Ascot watered unnecessarily.

If he does race, he's likely to be short around 11/4 and preference is for John Gosden's Romsdal, which was trading around 5/1 yesterday evening. Third in the Derby behind Australia and Kingston Hill, he was disappointing in the King George but he's been touted as a Leger horse for some time now and the step up to a mile and six should suit him well.

Each way

GREAT St Wilfrid winner Out Do is back in action for this afternoon's Ladbrokes Portland Handicap (2.40 Doncaster), a race which is always extremely competitive.

The David O'Meara trained five-year-old overcame traffic problems at Ripon in a first time visor and eventually won handy enough - but the handicapper has left him some room for improvement raising his mark just 3lbs to 97.

He's rarely out of the frame and at 10/1 this afternoon, he's entitled to go close.

Today's selections

2.40 Doncaster: Out Do (e/w)

3.05 Lingfield: Miracle of Medinah

3.30 Chester: Captain Colby

3.50 Doncaster: Romsdal

5.45 Leopardstown: Tapestry

6.10 Wolverhampton: Meebo

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