Saturday 20 January 2018

Magician primed to cast spell on Ascot rivals

Joseph O’Brien will be hoping to partner Magician to another success in the big race at Ascot this afternoon. SPORTSFILE
Joseph O’Brien will be hoping to partner Magician to another success in the big race at Ascot this afternoon. SPORTSFILE
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

JOHN GOSDEN is the only trainer to saddle a three-year-old King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner in the last 10 years so his trio of Classic representatives warrant respect today.

His St Leger candidate Romsdal probably won't be up to seeing off such a quality field in what is a fascinating edition of the Ascot contest, but it is worth remembering that he ran third to Australia at Epsom. Richard Hughes' mount could go really well here and still only finish fourth or fifth.

Eagle Top, supplemented at a cost of £75,000, has a bit more to prove on form, though the ground has seemingly turned in his favour.

Taghrooda, of course, is the most intriguing of the three. She looked the part when powering clear in the Oaks and it was a bold call to tackle this. Given that Tarfasha flopped at the Curragh last week, Hamdan Al Maktoum's strategy could backfire completely if Taghrooda demurs now, though he also has the Eclipse Stakes hero Mukhadram here.

If fortune favours the brave, Maktoum's Sea The Stars filly should emulate Pawneese, the only other Oaks winner to follow up in this prestigious Group One in the same year in 1976.

However, for all the poundage that she receives, the Oaks which Taghrooda won doesn't look especially strong.

Granted, she did it in some style, but, as we saw in the Eclipse, successfully bridging the gap to open company takes a bit of doing. At odds of as low as 9/4, Paul Hanagan's mount doesn't appeal.

The runaway Hardwicke winner Telescope is the only horse trading shorter, and he is less easy to dismiss.

Michael Stoute is brilliant with this sort of late-maturing type, having saddled Harbinger to complete the Hardwicke-King George double in sensational fashion four years ago.


Under the peerless Ryan Moore, Telescope will go close if he copes with the slower ground, but if there is a horse in there capable of thwarting him it is surely the Aidan O'Brien-trained Magician.

On a literal reading of their respective early season defeats to Noble Mission, there won't be much between the two over this more suitable 12-furlong trip, but the rain-softened ground is a concern for both.

It was fast when Magician slammed The Fugue in the Breeders' Cup Turf in November, while he emerged from his Royal Ascot defeat to the same mare with great credit. Over 10-furlongs there, Joseph O'Brien had to take the race to the field turning in.

The partnership ultimately then had no answer to The Fugue's turn of foot, but Magician found again close home to repel the late surge of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Arc heroine Treve.

It was a hugely satisfying effort ahead of this more suitable target, and it's not insignificant that Mukhadram was back in fourth, as he franked the form at Sandown, for all that he got the run of the race.

Trading Leather finished second that day and Jim Bolger's back-to-form four-year-old also looks value for a place here at up to 12/1.

Magician's profile, though, is the most solid, and at up to 5/1 he is the one that the layers have underestimated most under the excellent champion jockey.

The Longines International is a mind-boggling handicap on the same card, with 29 set to do battle in the straight course cavalry charge.

Luca Cumani's Ayaar is one of interest at double-figure odds, as Frankie Dettori's mount is dropping back to its favoured seven-furlong trip after running respectably when hampered in the Hunt Cup over a mile.

At York, Godolphin's Windhoek is strongly fancied in the 10-furlong Group Two.

A progressive Cape Cross four-year-old, he easily dismissed the subsequent winner Amralah in Listed company at Sandown, and the form of his previous third in an Epsom Group Three is even more impressive.

If Windhoek runs to that level now, he is the one to beat under Kieren Fallon.

Best Bet: Windhoek

Irish Independent

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