Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 14 December 2017

So You Think a cut above rivals

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

For all that the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes is revered for producing some famous clashes in years gone by, this evening's renewal does little to enhance the reputation of a race that has gradually seemed to lose its international appeal.

Whereas once the Leopardstown Group One was a marquee target for the cream of British-based Flat horses such as Fantastic Light, Daylami, Swain, Pilsudski and Pentire, this year Snow Fairy takes her chance only as an afterthought.

Ed Dunlop's dual 2010 Oaks heroine is a quality performer in her own right but lines out here having recently been forced to miss engagements at York and Deauville.

She is the sole foreign representative in the 10-furlong, six-runner showpiece, yet was blown out of the water by today's red-hot favourite So You Think when the pair met in the Eclipse at Sandown last month. As is often the case nowadays, then, a formidable domestic opponent appears to have scared off other potential challengers.

A solipsistic view might deem a meagre turnout as a consequence of perceived local muscle as no bad thing, but that only serves to undermine the race's stature.

Great and all as it is to have a horse of So You Think's calibre operating out of Ballydoyle, the increasing regularity with which the Co Tipperary outfit hoovers up the win and place money in our best races is not exactly one of the game's finer selling points.

Indeed, on a weekend when there will be a mass influx to the capital ahead of tomorrow's hurling decider, the Foxrock venue's executive is no doubt hoping that the experimental twilight schedule will boost attendance figures for an event that really ought to promote itself. As it is, the whole thing could be another hard sell.

Remember, just 9,000 people turned out to witness Sea The Stars -- one of the all-time greats -- become the fourth successful money-on shot here in 2009, and 1,300 fewer people turned up when Seamie Heffernan stole the race from the front on Cape Blanco last year.

Heffernan, the man entrusted with the ride on So You Think as well as the Matron Stakes favourite Misty For Me, should again capture the headlines this evening. Capturing the public's imagination is a whole other task.

5.10 Kilternan Stakes (Group Three)

Having been entered for the Melbourne Cup this week, how Galileo's Choice fares will be fascinating. Dermot Weld's gelding improved to win easily over two miles at Killarney last time, but the suspicion is that 10 furlongs here may be on the short side.

Mutahadee is lightly raced with scope to progress, while Look At Me has shown only flashes of form this term. On his first run since failing to land a blow in the Manhattan Handicap in June, Viscount Nelson is interesting.

When scoring comfortably over this 10-furlong trip at The Curragh previously, he certainly looked to be heading in the right direction.

Verdict -- Viscount Nelson is the one to keep on side

5.40 Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes (Group One)

The three-year-old Misty For Me is going to be very hard to topple if she produces her best. Already a four-time Group One winner, she has been beaten only twice in her last six starts, and had genuine excuses on both occasions, namely that she wasn't fully wound up on her debut in the 1,000 Guineas and that she didn't stay the mile and a half in the Epsom Oaks.

Having thrashed the high-class Midday -- albeit with the help of an easy lead -- at The Curragh on her most recent start in June, it's hard to look elsewhere now. Of the four other Classic generation hopefuls, Misty For Me's stablemate Together is the pick.

Placed in three Group Ones, including when runner-up to Misty For Me in the Irish Guineas, Together could have a big day in her yet. Emulous and Lolly For Dolly represent the elders, with Emulous maybe the more dangerous if the rain stays away.

Verdict -- Misty For Me is at the top of her game

6.10 September Handicap

With one winning favourite in 10 years, this race is traditionally a minefield for punters. It is no less tricky to decipher this time round.

Jamesie has been in excellent heart, winning twice before finishing a brave second at Galway. He is up another three pounds for that, but gets in here off a fair 8st 13lb.

The British raider Below Zero is another to consider. Mark Johnston's four-year-old, a winner at Dundalk in the middle of last month, likes to race close to the pace and has run well to be placed in two competitive handicaps lately.

Iron Major is also admirably consistent, while Barack reverts to handicap company having acquitted himself well at Listed level. He is already a two-time course winner.

Verdict -- Below Zero could land a blow for the raiders

6.45 Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes (Group One)

So You Think can deliver Aidan O'Brien a remarkable seventh triumph in this since the year 2000. With the exception of his defeat under a poor tactical ride at Ascot in June, the five-year-old Australian import has fully lived up to his reputation and conditions should be ideal for him to record a third Group One since his arrival.

On all known form, only Snow Fairy will pose a threat, but Frankie Dettori's mount would probably need to perform to a higher level than she has ever done before if she is to cause an upset. Beaten 10 lengths by So You Think on her seasonal bow at Sandown, she subsequently improved on that to be second to Midday at Goodwood.

Famous Name, a disappointment here 12 months ago, deserves a mention in conditions that would normally suit. Still, having failed to take a glorious opportunity in Munich last time, he is unlikely to break his Group One duck in this.

Verdict -- So You Think to win at his ease

•Richard Forristal was on the mark for readers at Kilbeggan last night. Three of his selections, Sister Steve (11/4), London Bridge (6/4) and Granaruid (3/1), all obliged at combined odds of 37/1.

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