Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Grounds for believing Cirrus can be Champion

Proven French mudlark can take advantage of rain's arrival

Cirrus Des Aigles, under the guidance of Christophe Soumillon, can make his first visit to these shores a winning one today
Cirrus Des Aigles, under the guidance of Christophe Soumillon, can make his first visit to these shores a winning one today

With the weather forecast continuing to dominate the build-up to today's Qipco Irish Champion Stakes, predicting who will eventually line up in Leopardstown's showpiece event is almost as difficult as identifying who will win it.

The deluge of rain arrived in the capital yesterday afternoon and that means there will continue to be doubts surrounding the participation of the so-called 'big two', Golden Horn and Gleneagles.

Dermot Weld has also highlighted the need for decent ground for another leading contender, Free Eagle. Pat Smullen's mount proved his well-being with a thrilling Royal Ascot victory over the ever-consistent The Grey Gatsby which renews rivalry once more.

The latter - surprise conqueror of 2014 Derby hero Australia in last year's renewal - has since been put in his place by Golden Horn in the Eclipse at Sandown, and his trainer Kevin Ryan has also indicated that the grey might not run were the ground to turn soft.

Bearing in mind all those imponderables, the safest option could well turn out to be Cirrus Des Aigles, whose connections will certainly have no worries over the deteriorating conditions.

The sprightly nine-year-old has a tremendous record at the highest level - which has seen him win seven Group Ones - but this will be his first appearance on these shores.

His durability is a great testament to the training skills of Corine Barande-Barbe, and the long-serving campaigner has clearly benefited from the special attention he gets in such a small stable.

In normal circumstances, championing the cause of a veteran gelding in one of the Europe's biggest races would be scoffed at, but the goalposts - or more accurately, the pitch surface - has moved and the fact that Barande-Barbe issued such an upbeat bulletin on her proven mudlark underlines confidence further.

"He is looking better than ever at the moment. He is well and fresh and he was happy to go in the van to go the airport before he left," the trainer explained.

"There is at least a bit of rain forecast, so we will see what arrives. I don't mind too much. I am very happy with him."

As for the rest of the card, the clash of in-form fillies Amazing Maria and Legatissimo in the Matron Stakes is one to look forward to, but again both of these prefer good ground and it is perhaps a contest that is best watched.

A more attractive betting proposition could be Fascinating Rock in the KPMG Enterprise Stakes. The four-year-old turned in a career best when just touched off by Al Kazeem in the Rogers Gold Cup at the Curragh back in May, and while the Weld inmate was a major disappointment on his only subsequent outing, when fifth at Windsor a fortnight ago, there's good reason for believing he can bounce back with the softening ground sure to suit him.

Weld will also have high hopes tomorrow for the Curragh, where Forgotten Rules is certain to attract plenty of support in the featured Palmerstown House Estate Irish St Leger.

This five-year-old is another that will have to bounce back from a poor run, when a beaten odds-on favourite behind Bondi Beach, but the ground was clearly too firm.

The former Punchestown bumper winner possesses the best piece of form in the race - his third to Trip To Paris in the Ascot Gold Cup - and while Aidan O'Brien's Order Of St George deserves his place at the head of the market based on his progressive profile, a bigger threat to Forgotten Rules may come from Agent Murphy, whose recent Newbury win was franked by the success of Pallasator in yesterday's Doncaster Cup.

Watching Brief

Yesterday afternoon, it was confirmed that Order Of St George would swerve the English St Leger at Doncaster in favour of tomorrow’s Irish equivalent (4.50 Curragh), and bookmakers were quick to react by installing Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo colt as the 11/4 favourite.

But the younger horses have a poor record in the Irish St Leger and as the only three-year-old in the field in what looks to be a wide-open renewal, those odds are not overly generous.

That’s not denying that Order Of St George is a very promising sort. He won a minor race at Down Royal in July and forged clear with ease to land the Irish St Leger Trial at the Curragh three weeks ago – but he didn’t have much to beat and I’m not sure we learned a whole lot from those races, for which he was priced 1/5 and 4/6 respectively.

Luca Cumani’s Second Step (chalked up at 8/1) could be dangerous, having recently won the Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten, a Group One race in Germany.

Forgotten Rules, Agent Murphy and Brown Panther also have claims so it’s a race best enjoyed without a bet.

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