Saturday 26 May 2018

O'Brien to clean up at Champions Weekend

Aidan O’Brien, who looks liable to win all around him over the two days. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Aidan O’Brien, who looks liable to win all around him over the two days. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Irish Champions Weekend has been a terrific concept and the Irish Champion Stakes to which we were treated last year was, we hoped, an example of the future for the big race of the two-day extravaganza, which commenced in 2017.

Unfortunately, there is only so much that Leopardstown can do to attract runners, and the 2017 renewal promises to be less memorable. 

Churchill, which has lost his last two starts and was beaten without excuse in the Juddmonte International, could go off odds-on despite seeming no more than a good Guineas winner.

Almanzor, winner last year, is retired - as are the second (Found) and third (Minding). Ulysses, which trounced Churchill at York, is not running; nor is Eclipse second Barney Roy. 

The Irish challenge is nothing special, so Churchill may be paraded to a somewhat indifferent Foxrock fraternity.

Eminent's visit or otherwise is key.

The son of Frankel represents an Englishman unaccustomed to such talent. He can trouble Churchill, but a call has yet to be made by Martin Meade, and Churchill can only beat what he faces.

That is not his fault, nor that of Aidan O'Brien, who looks liable to win all around him over the two days.  Winter's Matron expedition is the equivalent of challenging an Eskimo to get through a night by the campfire, while his incredible team of two-year-old fillies should see him beat some choice upstarts from other Irish barns in the Moyglare.

Then there is the Leger on Sunday, in which Order Of St George appears to be an absolute certainty. 

Ryan Moore rode him with too much confidence 12 months ago when those who backed him had an experience that would put one off gambling for life, but expect nothing of the sort in six days' time, Big Orange or no Big Orange.

Perhaps most compelling of all is the National Stakes, a probable match between Gustav Klimt and Expert Eye, which was sensational at Goodwood at a time when Michael Stoute makes a comeback towards the realms of relevance.

The son of Acclamation is visually awesome. But what of the Coolmore hope? He overcame all manner of trouble to win at Newmarket and this is an event that O'Brien picks off like an open goal.

The bookmakers make the raider odds-on, and it shapes up to be one of the best match races we have seen in years.

The Moyglare is Clemmie's to lose if the ground is right, which is far from certain.

But then there is Happily and September as back-up for Team Ballydoyle.

'Another September' came to mind on Thursday as autumn arrived, that Thomas Kinsella poem about life's circle. 

O'Brien holds the key to Champions Weekend. Like Dublin's display against Tyrone, do not lose sight of the virtuosity of the victor. 

What will Quinn do differently in market?

There was much bemusement when it was revealed that the man who showed all the worst traits of dangerous gambling - to the tune of a loss nearing €3bn - would be launching a new betting firm.

Quinnbet is being backed by Sean Quinn, who chased defeats in the Celtic Tiger like a man who wanted to be thrown out of every nightclub.

In the 'Sunday Independent', Declan Lynch spoke of this seamless progression, of "the journey of Quinn from insurance to bookmaking, via his adventures in banking and the stock market.

"We see so much continuity, that at times it looks like he is not really starting in the betting business - he has been there all the time."

Quinnbet has no traders and is basically paying a service provider for automated prices. 

Quinn has spoken of its potential to create jobs - when in reality this arrangement is designed with the exact opposite in mind.

Meanwhile, a friend opened an account with a reputable firm last week, placing €150 on a 1/2 shot in US racing and €25 on Harry Kane to score first (for England) at 3/1.

He was immediately shut down. Another had his first bet (£300) with a different firm on Coleraine FC at 4/5 and was immediately purged. 

This is despicable behaviour from bookmakers who should not be allowed have a licence.   Ride of the week "He was entitled to win," said Mark Walsh.

But his kid-gloves treatment of Successor at Wexford rightly earned plenty of praise.

The horse's head carriage was not at all convincing and, without the stick, he got the 4/1 shot up on the line on Saturday. 

Quote of the week "He's very good looking. I'm lucky he doesn't have two legs or Pinewood Studios would have him gone." Brendan Duke, ever colourful, after Warm The Voice won at the Curragh.  Gamble of the week Dixie Lee at Down Royal on Friday. The useful bumper horse was too big at initial 10/1 (SP 4/1), winning easily for Mark Enright and Dermot McLoughlin.  Tweet of the week Douvan (@RealDouvan) So I'm calling big PPV fight ... Conor McGregor V Davy Russell A spoof account with a fun look at the Russell situation.

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