Sunday 8 December 2019

Monday Outlook - Moore proves he is world's best rider

Masterclass on Grey Gatsby to stun Australia teaches O'Brien Jnr a lesson

Ryan Moore underlined his pre-eminence by steering the Grey Gatsby to victory over Australia. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Ryan Moore underlined his pre-eminence by steering the Grey Gatsby to victory over Australia. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Andrea Atzeni riding Kingston Hill wins The Ladbrokes St Leger Stakes at Doncaster racecourse. Photo credit: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Richard Forristal

Maybe the biggest compliment you could pay the groundbreaking Irish Champions Weekend is that it got everything that it deserved.

It was a resounding success from start to finish. While it's all very well saying that we were only mimicking what every other major racing nation had already done by hosting a grandstand finale, it required a concerted industry effort to make this thing soar so elegantly.

The initiative amounted to the biggest single shift on the Irish Flat racing scene in recent times and it worked brilliantly. Bravo.

Saturday's programme at Leopardstown was relentlessly enjoyable. From Free Eagle's sublime comeback after a 12-month lay-off that included 12 weeks of box rest when he incurred a stress fracture in the spring, to Fiesolana's hugely popular breakthrough Group One coup for Willie McCrery and Billy Lee, it served up treat after treat.

Of course, the main event proved every bit as climactic as we expected, even if it didn't throw up the expected result. Australia got beaten by The Grey Gatsby (7/1) in an epic edition of the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes.

No one died, but there was a palpable sense of mourning in the Coolmore corner, just as there was when the dual Classic winner's sire Galileo got thwarted by Fantastic Light in the same race 13 years ago.

Joseph O'Brien came in for plenty of criticism, and it certainly wasn't his finest hour. However, it would be unfair to point the finger solely at him. Remember, this was an incalculably important race for everyone at Coolmore.

FLACK

You would have to imagine that tactics were discussed at length, so the 21-year-old was presumably riding to instructions. Much of the post-race flack focused on Australia taking the final bend so wide.

Just as we saw when Mick Kinane got edged out on Galileo by Fantastic Light after the Godolphin pace-maker let the winner slip up the inside, racing at this level can be a game of inches. Kinane, of course, is the benchmark for every Flat jockey, and his handling of Sea The Stars throughout 2009 is the textbook definition of how to ride a special horse. If you are on the best horse in the race you must give it the best chance of winning - you must trust them.

O'Brien tried to keep out of trouble by going wide, and the price of that strategy was exacted long before they got anywhere near the home bend. Unlike at York, when Australia was covered up, this time the colt had far too much daylight, and it was evident from the get-go that he was racing very keenly. He was expending energy.

When you then throw in the extra ground that was forfeited turning in and that Australia ultimately found himself playing hare to The Grey Gatsby, he was there to be shot at in the straight.

Not for the first time this year, O'Brien weighed in heavy after being narrowly beaten in a Group One, this time registering an extra pound after being beaten a neck.

O'Brien has made few mistakes in the saddle on the big days, but he is still just 21. It would be naive not to expect the odd hiccup from one so young in such a high-profile position. As he said yesterday: "We live and learn."

Of course, you also have to factor in the Ryan Moore element. This guy is the best rider in the world - bar none. He eventually challenged on the outside of Australia, but took the shortest route until they had straightened up.

Last turning in, Moore kept Australia in his sights and nailed him on the line. It was typical of what we have come to expect from him. This is simply what he does.

Moore has now claimed the scalps of two of the most revered three-year-olds of this vintage Classic crop, having first slayed Taghrooda aboard Tapestry at York. His temperament is Kinane-esque, and you simply cannot buy his experience.

As the Prix du Jockey Club winner, we already knew that The Grey Gatsby was a proper horse. However, he had been put firmly in his place by Australia on the Knavesmire, so the significance of Kevin Ryan's decision to sanction a €75,000 supplementary fee should not be underestimated.

You could argue that the money was guaranteed once The Grey Gatsby made the frame, but you don't cough up that kind of dough in the hope of a place. Ryan, a native of Golden in Co Tipperary, believed he could shake up Australia, and he was proven right in spectacular style. Fortune favours the brave.

As for Australia, it's hard to predict if connections will fancy tackling Kingman in the QEII now. Neither are they likely to be eager to retire him on the back of a defeat.

STAB

They aren't keen on a stab at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, for all that it looks extremely winnable this year.

There wouldn't have been any real value in the English Champion Stakes had things gone to plan on Saturday, but maybe there would be now, and O'Brien confirmed yesterday that it and the QEII are the races that will be considered. Australia could well meet Free Eagle in the Champion Stakes, after Dermot Weld hinted that Ascot might be a more logical destination than Longchamp for him.

It is also the only other contest being considered for The Grey Gatsby this year. Now that really would be a race to live up to its title.

Yorkshire trio lead cross-channel raid

Luring swathes of foreign runners to ICW and then keeping all the prize money at home would never have done, so eight winners was a fantastic return for the cross-channel raiders.

The Grey Gatsby's giant-felling was the pick of a treble at Leopardstown, each of the trio trained in Yorkshire. Mark Johnston and Joe Fanning foiled Mustajeeb and Gordon Lord Byron in the mile Group Two with Bow Creek, and Brian Ellison again teamed up successfully with Colm O'Donoghue to take the seven-furlong handicap with Baraweez.

First and third in two outings at Galway, the progressive four-year-old's Irish earnings for the year now stand at €162,000. He has won four times - and been disqualified once - for Ellison since being bought out of Hamdan Al Maktoum's operation for 30,000gns in October.

Figures all add up at Leopardstown

At Leopardstown on Saturday, the attendance came in at 13,190, up a whopping 50pc on last year, though still some way behind the record of over 17,000 that witnessed Fantastic Light's famous coup in 2001. That tally must now be a target.

With respective totals of €795,510 and €891,631, the Tote and Bookmakers' turnover was up 79pc and 33pc. The main problem on Saturday was the issue of television pictures, which were basic at best and weren't even accompanied by commentary in parts of the racecourse. Apparently the issue stemmed from a technical fault.

Yesterday's Tote, bookies' and crowd figs recorded enormous respective increases of 131pc, 95pc and 107pc. Kudos all round.

Varian's Leger hero Kingston set for Arc

Kingston Hill defied concerns over the ground at Doncaster to grind out a deserved first win of the season in the St Leger.

Roger Varian's colt upheld the Derby form with a determined effort under Andrea Atzeni, coming from well back to reel in Epsom third Romsdal and give both men their first Classic success.

Backed into 9/4 favouritism, the son of Mastercraftsman, which is owned by Paul Smith, son of Coolmore supreme Derrick, was emulating his Group One triumph at the same track last year.

Connections had to survive a stewards' inquiry after Kingston Hill leaned into the runner-up before the line, but there was little doubt about his superiority.

It also reaffirmed the status of Varian and Atzeni as rising stars of their respective professions, with Atzeni due to take over from Jamie Spencer as retained rider to Qatar Racing next year. A tilt at the Arc is now on Kingston Hill's agenda.

On Arc trials day at Longchamp yesterday, Ballydoyle's Ruler Of The World (7/2) bounced back to his best under Frankie Dettori. Neither last year's Derby hero nor his rider have had much luck in 2014, but both reminded everyone of their undoubted respective talents in the Group Two Prix Foy.

After benefiting from a front-running masterclass by Dettori, Ruler Of The World was slashed to 10/1 from 33/1 for the Arc.

The reigning Arc heroine Treve again disappointed despite Dettori being replaced by Thierry Jarnet in the Prix Vermeille, finishing fourth behind Baltic Baroness

Tweet of the weekend

Mark Bolger (@markbolger24)

Going to miss @ListowelRaces this week and be out of action for a few weeks with a broken shoulder! #annoyed

Rider expresses his frustration in revealing that a fall from Muzak at Galway has left him sidlelined.

Numbers Game

470,000Euro that JP McManus' team coughed up for John Oxx's Aga Khan home-bred Timiyan at the new Goffs Sale that preceded racing at Leopardstown on Saturday. The three-year-old son of Ghostzapper has won impressively in both his handicap runs over 12 furlongs, latterly off a mark of 93 at Gowran Park.

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