So You Think may target Arc after narrow Stakes victory
For a race that since its inception in 1976 has consistently proven the highlight of the Irish Flat season, it seemed something of an insult that yesterday's field would have been made up of an all-domestic affair but for the obstinacy of French bureaucracy. The unwitting petty declaration infringement in France compelled Ed Dunlop's Snow Fairy to reroute from Deauville and become a belated supplementary addition to yesterday's Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes line-up. Notwithstanding that, it still seemed the race was destined as a lap of honour for the Ballydoyle-recruited Aussie superstar So You Think if the SP of 1/4 were truly credible.
All in all this has been a strange year for Snow Fairy. After four Group One wins in 2010, the dual Oaks winner missed intended runs in Dubai, through injury; the Curragh, after a storm changed the going; and France, because of the aforementioned obscure declaration rule. But her participation yesterday transformed what would have been a formality bore into the very thing that has been the enduring hallmark of the Champion Stakes down through the years -- a pulsating duel.
With Ballydoyle responsible for half of the field, Aidan O'Brien's Roderic O'Connor predictably adopted the tactics that had yielded him a Classic for the yard already this season. So You Think sat in second with Snow Fairy third and the rest of the field better off at home. For that was the way it remained until the straight when Seamus Heffernan launched So You Think past his stablemate, covered closely by Frankie Dettori who had helicoptered in from Haydock to take the ride on Snow Fairy. For a brief moment it appeared as if the filly might just overhaul the wonderhorse but despite her gallantry So You Think continued to maintain his advantage and prevailed by a half a length at the post -- considerably less than the nine and a quarter lengths she had been beaten by him over the same distance in Sandown's Eclipse.
In terms of future options for the winner John Magnier said afterwards: "He could run in the mile race at Ascot (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes), the mile-and-a-quarter race (Qipco Champion Stakes, Ascot), or he could run in the Arc."
Coolmore are having a fine year but it was the Juddmonte bandwagon that rolled on in the Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes as Dermot Weld-trained Emulous posted a deeply impressive last-to-first blitzkrieg in the presence of Prince Khalid Abdullah's racing manager Lord Grimthorpe. It marked a milestone in the owner-trainer relationship as the first ever Group One winner registered by the Rosewell House trainer on behalf of the prince, and the result came as little surprise to the trainer who said afterwards that she had been "trained for today".
In fairness to Weld this was the very opposite of after-timing as he had long since expressed the view in public that she was a Group One filly and had mentioned the autumn as the time she would come into her own. The Ballydoyle money all day in this race had been for Together in opposition to favourite Misty For Me and the money proved correct as she edged out her stablemate for second. However it came at a conservatively respectful three length distance behind Emulous, which was forced to navigate a wide course throughout from her wide draw but nonetheless had the talent to deliver an irresistible spurt down the outside to dispatch her field in the straight.
Newmarket's Sun Chariot is earmarked for Emulous's next assignment and as a filly with some blossoming still left in her, it would be a surprise if she doesn't have a say in the destination of that prize to boot.
Meanwhile, David Simcock's primary emotion was relief after Dream Ahead returned to his brilliant best in a thrilling renewal of the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock.
The one-time Classic hope had looked the real deal when returned to six furlongs in the July Cup at Newmarket and, with youth on his side, it seemed the three-year-old was set to become the new king of the sprint division.
But an abject display in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville was not in the script, and with no real excuse to call upon, Simcock headed to Merseyside unsure what to expect from his star turn.
It was clear from an early stage that William Buick was a happy man in the saddle and the 4/1 favourite moved menacingly into the lead inside the final furlong as though he would win readily, but he started to hang when pressure was applied, giving Bated Breath a chance of victory.
Adding further excitement to the finish was the presence of Hoof It, but when the gap failed to open up for him, he lost valuable momentum.
The three flashed past the post but the judge was able to call Dream Ahead the winner by a nose, with Bated Breath a head in front of Hoof It.
Sunday Indo Sport