Sport Horse Racing

Friday 20 July 2018

Irish eyes on 'million' prize

Leigh Roche drives the Arthur Bunyan-trained Dazzle The Duel to victory at Newbury to kick-start what could be a big weekend for Irish trainers abroad
Leigh Roche drives the Arthur Bunyan-trained Dazzle The Duel to victory at Newbury to kick-start what could be a big weekend for Irish trainers abroad
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

David Marnane will tonight strive to emulate Aidan O'Brien by becoming just the second Irish trainer to conquer the Arlington Million.

Unlike his fellow Co Tipperary-based handler, Marnane is tilting at windmills a little in Chicago with Elleval. When O'Brien claimed the $1m feature with Powerscourt in 2005 and Cape Blanco in 2011, he did so with proven Group One campaigners.

Indeed, Powerscourt had even "won" the famous Arlington Park race in 2004, only to get thrown out after Jamie Spencer - who would make amends aboard Cape Blanco - allowed his mount to impede the runner-up as he swept into a commanding lead.

In contrast, Elleval's previous forays into this grade in Meydan promised little.

However, it is a relatively moderate renewal, and he has the esteemed assistance of Pat Smullen in the saddle.

In the event that Elleval should defy his 20/1 odds, it would surely go down as one of the most enterprising examples of international placing by an Irish handler.

Of course, Dermot Weld and O'Brien are among the most versed at exploiting the global programme book.

Weld bids to enhance his international pedigree with the Smullen-ridden Carla Bianca in the Beverly D Stakes, while O'Brien will be represented in the fillies' and mares' Grade One by the Nassau Stakes runner-up Wedding Vow, which will be ridden by Colm O'Donoghue.

The Classic-winning rider has won three Grade Ones for O'Brien in north America or Canada, including the 2011 Secretariat Stakes on Treasure Beach.

Incredibly, the Ballydoyle genius is the most successful trainer in the history of the three-year-olds-only showpiece.

It celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014, and the victory of Adelaide was a record third for the Wexford-born maestro.

Tonight, Seamie Heffernan will seek to enhance that incredible statistic aboard Highland Reel.

Intriguingly, Spencer is also duty at Arlington Park. In the middle of York's Ebor meeting a year ago, the gifted Horse and Jockey native shocked the racing world by announcing that he would retire at year's end.

In the end, after so nearly conjuring a dramatic Breeders' Cup Classic success aboard Toast Of New York at Santa Anita in November, he reversed his decision.

Spencer has been riding as well as ever of late, and enjoyed a first Group One win of the year on Second Step in Germany last weekend. He is on Secret Gesture in the Beverly D and Belgian Bill in the Million, so it would be fitting were he to consign that premature episode to history with another big-race coup one year on.

Andy Oliver and Chris Hayes have also embarked on a Stateside venture with Panama Hat, which contests the Grade Three American St Leger.

Closer to home, young Curragh handler Darren Bunyan yesterday did his bit for the travelling contingent, with 16/1 shot Dazzle The Duel triumphing for Leigh Roche at Newbury.

It might not be a feat to match the global exploits of O'Brien or Weld, but it did highlight Bunyan's prowess. His first cross-channel win, it was his fourth individual winner this year for a 37.5pc strike-rate. Given that Bunyan has only run four horses, that is some yield.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's enchanting York duel between Gleneagles and Golden Horn remains on for now, with the Knavesmire ground eased to just good yesterday after 14mm of rainfall.

In the meantime, Territories, second in the 2,000 Guineas and another serious three-year-old colt, is pencilled in for tomorrow's Prix Jacques le Marois.

Unfortunately, there is a chance that the rain-softened Deauville ground will yet rule out Andre Fabre's charge.

Meanwhile, at Tramore, Andrew McNamara made a dramatic farewell to the saddle with a fairytale winner on his final ride. The popular Limerick jockey brought his 15-year career to an end by driving Most Honourable, a 5/1 shot trained by John 'Shark' Hanlon, to a half-length success from Luimneach Abu in the two-mile handicap hurdle.

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