Thursday 22 February 2018

Sapphire can sparkle for Weld

Aisling Crowe

After enduring a deluge of rain, and surviving an inspection yesterday, racing goes ahead in Cork this afternoon. Sapphire should sparkle brightly in the Group Three Kerry Group Noblesse Stakes, the highlight of this afternoon's card.

The mile-and-a-half contest for fillies has attracted a good field and the ground and distance should suit Dermot Weld's four-year-old whose three career wins have come on ground with plenty of ease. The daughter of Medicean proved she handles testing conditions when she chased home Manieree in the Group Two Blandford Stakes at The Curragh last September, with the rest of the fillies finishing well strung out behind.

For her final outing of the season she was stepped up in trip and dropped in class for the Listed Go Racing in Kildare Finale Stakes over today's 12-furlong trip. It was the best performance of her career so far as she powered to an authoritative victory.

Although Sapphire is making her seasonal reappearance today, Weld will have her primed to run a big race and she has the class to shoulder her weight burden. Sapphire has to give weight away to her younger rivals, including three from the Aidan O'Brien yard.

The well-related Betterbetterbetter finished down the field in the Oaks at Epsom two weeks ago and before that disappointed when she was the beaten favourite in the Cheshire Oaks. Soon ran well on her latest start, behind the impressive Speaking Of Which at The Curragh on Guineas weekend, and if she handles the extra two furlongs and testing ground could be best of the Ballydoyle battalion.

Remember Alexander hasn't won since she beat Parish Hall at Leopardstown last July but Jessica Harrington's filly has been keeping good company. John Oxx has found a good vein of form and Ebalviyra showed a liking for heavy ground when she won on her debut at Tipperary last month. She will come on from that but Sapphire should outshine them all.

English raiders have a good record in Irish sprints and there are three in the five-furlong Listed Galtee Midsummer Sprint Stakes. Dandy Nicholls' Inxile was in better form when he took this last year but has performed well on this type of ground. The younger Mirza may be best of the English, while the locally-trained Gossamer Seed is dropping back in trip but the soft ground should help her cause.

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