Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 26 April 2018

Hobbs can prove Champion qualities

Irish Derby hero looks too strong but Weld's Rock has place claims

Jack Hobbs and William Buick will be aiming to repeat their Irish Derby exploits at Ascot this afternoon
Jack Hobbs and William Buick will be aiming to repeat their Irish Derby exploits at Ascot this afternoon
Maxime Guyon will be on Solow
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

A historical Irish indifference to the Qipco Champion Stakes is borne out in the Group One's roll of honour.

When New Approach smashed the track record in the 10-furlong showpiece at its original home in Newmarket, he was the first Irish winner since 1980. There have been no more since.

Horses like Australia or Sea The Stars would doubtless have gone close, but the Irish equivalent and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe always take priority for the marquee Irish horses.

Dermot Weld, who has plundered three winners at this fixture, between 2012 and 2014, sent Free Eagle out to be third 12 months ago. This time, he will saddle Fascinating Rock, and Aidan O'Brien relies on Found.

Both have Jack Hobbs to beat. In six starts, John Gosden's handsome Halling colt has been toppled only by his illustrious stablemate Golden Horn, first in the Dante and then in the Derby. He was as superior as expected in the Irish Derby and again against lesser opposition in a Kempton Group Three last month.

The concerns today would be that William Buick's mount is dropping back to 10 furlongs and that he is drawn badly. However, he wasn't short of pace when sluicing up in a Sandown handicap over the trip in April, nor when second at York.

In relation to the draw, Jack Hobbs' pace-maker starts from the stall alongside, so if both break sharply they should help carry each other into position.

Jack Hobbs should win and, at odds of 5/4, there is still be value to be had about him.

Found comes here after a luckless Arc outing. This is a decent opportunity for her at the trip over which she ran second to Golden Horn at Leopardstown, but her poor win ratio is a slight concern. At around 4/1, her odds are about right.

In contrast, Fascinating Rock represents each-way value at 16/1. Weld's charge is the second highest rated in the field, 3lb behind Jack Hobbs and two ahead of Found. He has been a revelation this year, winning two and then leaving Postponed and The Grey Gatsby in his wake when half-lengthed by Al Kazeem in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. That was a sterling effort.

On his return from a break at Windsor in August, he needed the run. Then at Leopardstown last month, he destroyed Group Three opposition, stretching six lengths clear of the in-form Panama Hat. Undoubtedly, this is Fascinating Rock's toughest test, but, with the slow ground in his favour, he is a cracking each-way option.

The QE II could be the race of the day. However, given the doubt about Gleneagles' participation and having advised him ante-post at 7/1, it is a race to watch now.

Forgotten Rules has a chance in the stayers' race that he won last year now that he returns to two miles. Still, maybe the one to keep on side is Willie Mullins' Wicklow Brave. Ryan Moore has got off Clondaw Warrior to partner Wicklow Brave, which has been deeply progressive.

Second to the re-opposing Litigant in the Ebor, the County Hurdle hero was just denied second in the Irish St Leger by Agent Murphy, which also runs here. A 12/1 shot, Wicklow Brave may not be done improving yet.

Watching Brief...

Less than six weeks before the first leg, Tuesday's unveiling of the £1m Triple Crown named in Kauto Star's honour came alarmingly late in the day.

Consequently, the list of candidates is shorter than it might be. Willie Mullins is responsible for three suitable types. Vautour is surely the one of his that would be most suited to the challenge, but he is pencilled in for the John Durkan Chase on December 6 and may well need that time.

Similarly, Coneygree has the Hennessy as his target, and Silviniaco Conti seems to have an aversion to Cheltenham.

The standout candidate has to be Don Cossack. Gordon Elliott's eight-year-old has matured into the highest-rated chaser around, winning three Grade Ones in the past year.

His polished display at Punchestown on Thursday will have left him nicely tuned for the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 21, and the King George VI Chase and Gold Cup are already stated targets.

While it isn't a case of simply turning up, the 40/1 that can be had about him doing the treble would be decimated if he were to go and win at Haydock.

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