Monday 21 January 2019

Leopardstown glory may be on the horizon for Schmidt as O'Brien eyes 'Kew' Leger win

Joe Schmidt: eyes Curragh success. Photo: Sportsfile
Joe Schmidt: eyes Curragh success. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Joe Schmidt has brought unprecedented success to Irish rugby as international coach and the 52-year-old now has his eyes set on conquering the racing game on Champions Weekend at Leopardstown.

The New Zealand native, who helped guide Ireland to a rare Grand Slam success earlier this year, has teamed up with trainer Joseph O'Brien and the pair are targeting the Group Two Champions Juvenile Stakes at the Foxrock track on Saturday with Cosmic Horizon.

O'Brien has already enjoyed success with former Irish rugby star Ronan O'Gara and he is optimistic that the Excelebration colt can take the step up in grade in his stride having lost his maiden tag in fine style on his third outing at Roscommon.

"Joe is a big racing fan and I've met him a number of times at different functions and things and we just got chatting and this colt came up. It's great to have him involved. It was nice to see him win impressively and he looks like a colt who is ready for a step up in class," O'Brien said.

With six Group Ones mixed between Leopardstown on Saturday and the Curragh on Sunday, it promises to be a star-studded weekend as O'Brien bids to add to his Irish Derby success with Latrobe in June.

Latrobe (9/1) is one of 16 intended runners in Saturday's English St Leger at Doncaster while Joseph's father Aidan has seven potential Classic candidates, including short-priced favourite Kew Gardens (5/4).

O'Brien said of Kew Gardens: "Ryan (Moore) was delighted with him at York, he obviously stays further and we always thought that Doncaster would suit him. He had one disappointing run in the Derby.

"We rode him forward enough in the Derby too and maybe if we'd taken our time with him that might have suited him better. He has a lot of experience."

O'Brien warmed up for a big weekend in fine style at Listowel yesterday with Astronomer (2/1 favourite) and Mount Tabora (100/30) obliging for a 12/1 Ballydoyle double but Jim Bolger was the man with most to smile about at the Kerry track.

Panstarr (8/1) has been knocking on the door at pattern level this season but Godolphin's daughter of Pivotal eventually got her head just in front to edge the €50,000 Listed Listowel Stakes under a strong drive from Bolger's son-in-law Kevin Manning.

The feature on day three of the Harvest Festival is the Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue Handicap Hurdle (3.40) where Gordon Elliott's Cheltenham Festival Fred Winter winner Veneer of Charm makes his seasonal debut.

Carrying 11-10 is no mean feat, however, and Davy Russell's mount may be bogged down by that burden on ground that might have less give than he would appreciate, so preference is for Jessica Harrington's fast-improving Rovetta.

Part-owned by Irish rugby star Sean O'Brien and carrying just 10-4 under Robbie Power, the So You Think filly has been a revelation in the past month, bagging a hat-trick of wins - twice at the Galway Festival and on the Flat at the Curragh - and the progressive four-year-old may still be some way ahead of the handicapper in the €55,000 contest.

Irish Independent

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