Tuesday 16 January 2018

Weld's Sapphire can shine in Pretty Polly

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Victory for Sapphire in tomorrow's Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh would be a fitting end to a week that saw the passing of her 101-year-old owner Walter Haefner.

As Princess Highway showed by following in the footsteps of her dam Irresistible Jewel when landing the Ribblesdale in devastating style for Dermot Weld at Royal Ascot, breeding top-class prospects is what Moyglare Stud is about. Moreover, Haefner, a Swiss industrialist who purchased the Maynooth stud 50 years ago, derived particular pleasure from producing first-rate fillies, and Sapphire has the makings of a proper Group One prospect.

A half-sister to the recent dual winner Custom Cut, the Medician four-year-old hinted at what might be to come when second in a Group Three and an easy Listed winner at the end of last season. Sure enough, she confirmed that promise with a comprehensive victory over Betterbetterbetter and Soon on her reappearance in a Group Three at Cork.

Tomorrow, Sapphire drops back two furlongs to a mile and a quarter in the €190,000 Barclays Bank-sponsored feature, but that is a dilemma also faced by Epsom Oaks heroine Was. Having ridden a peach of a race to steal victory in the British Classic, Seamie Heffernan retains the ride on Aidan O'Brien's lightly raced filly, but the Epsom form has not worked out in the meantime, so questions remain as to the merit of that win.

Joseph O'Brien sticks with last year's Moyglare Stakes heroine Maybe, fifth at Epsom having also disappointed in the 1,000 Guineas on her seasonal bow. Knowing what the rider's father is capable of, it would be no surprise if Maybe cut a more potent threat now, while the in-form John Gosden's prolific Izzi Top looks the pick of the two British challengers.

Still, Sapphire appeals as the one with the most scope for improvement. If she does progress under Pat Smullen, she can deliver Weld his fourth victory in this for Moyglare, though it would be the stud's first since the race attained Group One status in 2004.

In the six-runner Friarstown Stud International, Weld and Smullen can record a fourth successive triumph in the 10-furlong Group Three courtesy of Famous Name. Responsible for the first and third legs of the stable's hat-trick, Famous Name is a standing dish at this level, having not been conquered in this grade or lower for 12 starts across three years.

Native Khan -- third to Frankel in last year's 2,000 Guineas, fifth in the Epsom Derby and seventh in the Irish equivalent -- is undoubtedly interesting on his debut for John Oxx. However, against a race-fit Famous Name, he strikes as one to watch for the future.

Later on, Statue Of Dreams merits the day's nap vote in the sprint handicap for locally based James McCabe. A specialist over this five-furlong trip, Chris Hayes' mount won nicely in heavy going at Navan on his penultimate start, before finishing third to the highly progressive Bubbly Bellini when stepped up to seven at Sligo.

Back over five with plenty cut in the ground, he ought to go close, while Hayes might also collect on Paul Deegan's indomitable mare Midnight Soprano in the At The Races Curragh Cup.

Conqueror of Saddler's Rock and Unaccompanied in the Savel Beg at Leopardstown, Midnight Soprano has climbed 24lb in the ratings by going unbeaten in five since October.

If she finds a bit more again, she can enhance her value as a potential broodmare by accounting for more established campaigners like Steps To Freedom and Sense Of Purpose.

Irish Independent

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