Friday 19 January 2018

Raider Simenon can strike Gold

Irish dominance at Royal Ascot looks set to continue with Mullins poised to claim his first top-level Flat win

Trainer Willie Mullins
Trainer Willie Mullins
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

A Royal Ascot that could already be described as a resounding success for Irish-trained horses should continue to prove lucrative for the travelling contingent this afternoon.

The feature event on day three is the Gold Cup, a uniquely gruelling Group One. Since John Oxx and Johnny Murtagh combined to plunder the prestigious two-and-a-half-miler with Enzeli in 1999, the lion's share of the £350,000 purse has crossed the water six more times.

Rite Of Passage's brave triumph over Age Of Aquarius in 2010 was the most recent, yet the official course record-holder has raced only twice since. Trained to the minute by Dermot Weld to record a memorable victory on his first start for a year-and-a-half back at the Berkshire venue in October, Pat Smullen's game mount must have a chance if he turns up.

However, given his problems, the fear is that the prevailing fast ground might prevent him from fully letting himself down. Oxx relies on the Declan McDonogh-ridden Saddler's Rock, 12 months after the five-year-old pulled hard en route to finishing third to Colour Vision.

Given the prospect of a truer pace this time, Saddler's Rock is a live contender, but the fact that he hasn't had a run since Dubai in March is slightly off-putting. Back on fast ground, Godolphin's Colour Vision is again respected, though Aidan O'Brien's El Salvador doesn't appeal as being quite up to this standard, for all that the Ballydoyle team is in rude health.

Simenon, representing the irrepressible champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins (below), might be the one in an open renewal. In its first two starts on the Flat for Mullins after a mixed spell over flights, Simenon bagged an emphatic double here in 2012 by an aggregate of 13 lengths.

He ran away with the Ascot Stakes over this trip off a mark of 95, before following up over two furlongs further in the Queen Alexandra. In three subsequent outings over shorter, he did well without excelling to the same degree, signing off with a close fifth in the Irish St Leger.

Back over an extended two-and-a-quarter miles in his Chester Cup reappearance, Simenon was unlucky from a bad draw, weaving his way through to go down by a fast-diminishing length-and-a-quarter to Address Unknown.

That should have left him just right for this return to a marathon journey, so he is fancied to supply Mullins with a first top-level Flat win by taking the step-up in class in his stride under the peerless Johnny Murtagh.

As was the case on days one and two, the early part of the card could be dominated by the raiders, with Coach House taken to land the Norfolk Stakes for Aidan and Joseph O'Brien.

The Oasis Dream colt recently recorded a second determined win at today's five-furlong trip over Club Wexford at headquarters and this Group Two could be well within his range.

The Ribblesdale might also cross the water for a third time in succession, courtesy of Alive Alive Oh and Fran Berry.

Owned by JP McManus' daughter Sue Ann Foley, Tommy Stack's filly has been deeply impressive in routing useful fields on both her starts at Cork and Navan this term; she will need to improve again, but she has the scope to do so on her fourth run.

Mick Halford's Won Diamond is also worth an each-way venture in the Britannia Handicap. Another unexposed sort, Shane Foley's mount is 7lbs better off with Roca Tumu having finished a couple of lengths behind Joanna Morgan's charge at the Curragh in May, and his latest gallant defeat to Stepwise at Navan confirmed that he is a horse to keep onside.

Selections

2.30 Coach House

3.05 Alive Alive Oh

3.45 Simenon

4.25 Won Diamond

5.00 Remote

5.35 Bold Sniper

Irish Independent

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