Saturday 18 November 2017

Sapphire can sparkle in tribute to Haefner

Aisling Crowe

Moyglare Stud Farm owner Walter Haefner passed away during the week but his legacy will live long and Sapphire could provide a fitting tribute to him by winning the Group One Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh this afternoon.

The standard in the race is set by Epsom Oaks winner Was, which continues her winning partnership with jockey Seamus Heffernan. She was a somewhat surprising winner of the fillies' classic four weeks ago when she held off the challenge of Shirocco Star by a neck. The daughter of Galileo stepped up markedly on her previous form and O'Brien has a history of getting high-class fillies to progress through their three-year-old careers so it would not be surprising if Was continues on her upward curve.

Stablemate Maybe was less than four lengths behind her at Epsom and the drop in trip to ten furlongs for today's race should suit the two-time juvenile Group One winner. Maybe was sent off favourite for the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket but could only manage third behind another apparent O'Brien second string in Homecoming Queen. It's possible that Maybe hasn't progressed from two to three at the same rate as her peers but if she rediscovers her sparkle, she will be a huge threat.

There are two English raiders in the race and the John Gosden-trained Izzi Top has the best form of the pair. She is unbeaten in three starts since her third-place finish behind Dancing Rain in last year's Epsom Oaks.

On her second to Dancing Rain on British Champions Day last October, Bible Belt, for Moone's Jessica Harrington, would not be without a chance. She beat Sapphire in a listed contest at Gowran last August on good ground but Sapphire overturned that form when the pair ran in the Blandford Stakes at The Curragh last September when the going was yielding.

Dermot Weld, trainer of Sapphire, should have a good understanding of the form. His Royal Ascot winner Princess Highway beat Was at Naas in May and left the Epsom second, third and fourth trailing in her wake when she turned the Ribblesdale Stakes into a procession at the Royal meeting.

Sapphire won the Group Three Noblesse Stakes over a mile-and-a-half at Cork on her last start just two weeks ago. She has form on soft ground and her stamina is beyond doubt. She is a filly that is going the right way and she should provide Weld and Moyglare with a poignant victory.

Dermot Weld could have a big-race double with Famous Name in the Group Three Friarstown Stud International Stakes. The admirably consistent seven-year-old isn't quite the same horse away from his beloved Leopardstown but he should still have enough to account for his rivals.

Windsor Palace is used to making the running for his more illustrious Ballydoyle colleagues but has decent form in his own right. Native Khan is making his debut for John Oxx and it will be interesting to see how he fares on his first start since the 2011 Epsom Derby.

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