Monday 23 October 2017

O'Brien's Century has hallmark of a champion

Edgardo Sol jumps the final fence on the way to landing the Red Rum Chase for Ruby Walsh at Aintree last April – the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding returns to the Liverpool track today and can strike this time under Nick Scholfield
Edgardo Sol jumps the final fence on the way to landing the Red Rum Chase for Ruby Walsh at Aintree last April – the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding returns to the Liverpool track today and can strike this time under Nick Scholfield
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Irish-trained horses have won the last four renewals of this afternoon's two-year-old Group One at Doncaster, so it's no surprise to see five raiders among the 11 runners this time.

The irrepressible Johnny Murtagh relies on Altruistic as he vies to claim yet another major Saturday prize, with his former weigh room colleague Pat Shanahan saddling the rank outsider Dolce N Karama.

Both men will be looking to emulate Mick Halford, who secured a memorable debut Group One victory in the Racing Post-sponsored mile event in 2010.

Given Murtagh's all-round prowess right now, Altruistic commands respect, but it's hard to see where he will find the necessary improvement to win. In short, he appeared to be held fair and square when third to Geoffrey Chaucer and Oklahoma City in the Beresford Stakes.

Aidan O'Brien's Oklahoma City is a solid benchmark, and the Tattersalls Millions winner went on to finish second to Kingston Hill in a Newmarket Group Three last time.

Kingston Hill scored with a degree of authority that day, so it's no real surprise that Roger Varian convinced Paul Smith – son of Coolmore shareholder Derrick – to fork out £17,500 to supplement him for this.

Given the Smith connection, O'Brien's decision to go ahead and also supplement Century is especially noteworthy. The Ballydoyle whiz has a direct line on Altruistic and Kingston Hill via Oklahoma City, so he must fancy Century's chance of toppling both.

In common with two of O'Brien's three recent winners of this, he is by Montjeu and comes here on the back of a single outing, having won a Curragh maiden that could yet prove to be quite decent.

A tall, unfurnished colt, he took a while to get the hang of things that day, but picked up nicely when the penny dropped to beat John Oxx's fancied Marakoush.

For such a big horse, it was a cracking effort, and you'd imagine he has the scope to come on a bundle for the experience, especially as his sire's progeny excel on the sort of slow ground that he is going to encounter here.

Joseph O'Brien has obviously factored that into his calculations in opting for Century over his two stablemates, so the 4/1 that can be had about the partnership delivering the current Ballydoyle incumbent his eighth win in this looks big.

Johann Strauss, the mount of Ryan Moore, has come in for support, but he hasn't looked straightforward. It would be a great surprise if he were to have the stomach for such a stiff test.

Over jumps at Aintree, Walkon heads the market in the featured Old Roan Chase. Alan King's grey has been a fantastic servant, but he has steadily crept up the handicap without winning one of these competitive affairs for nearly two years.

While Edgardo Sol has also moved up the ratings without getting his head in front too often, he has largely been running in better conditions races over fences.

Twice a winner at the famous Liverpool track already, Paul Nicholls' six-year-old was placed three times in graded company behind Cue Card, Sizing Europe and Wishfull Thinking last term.


Crucially, he now meets Wishfull Thinking on 5lb better terms than when finishing less than three lengths behind him in third in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February.

That makes him an attractive prospect today, particularly after he confirmed that he gets this two-and-a-half-mile trip when keeping on up the hill at Cheltenham over hurdles in April.

On the presumption that Edgardo Sol will strip fit enough for his bang in-form team under Nick Scholfield, the 6/1 that can be had about him collecting is generous.

There is also a decent card at Chepstow, where Just A Par is fancied on its novice chase bow for Nicholls. Like Milan Bound, the first of AP McCoy's five winners at Carlisle on Thursday, Just A Par was sold on for big money by Cork handler TJ Nagle after winning his maiden hurdle at Punchestown.

On his second start for Nicholls last term, he found only the classy At Fishers Cross too strong in the Grade One staying novice hurdle at Aintree, so he should have enough quality to land this five-runner heat under Daryl Jacob.

Best Bet: Edgardo Sol

Irish Independent

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