Monday 21 May 2018

Winter warning as Aidan O'Brien looks ahead to bumper weekend


Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Aidan O'Brien has warned that Winter, one of the hot favourites for tomorrow's first day of Champions Weekend, will come on for the run.

The brilliant grey swerves a clash with stablemate Churchill in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes and instead runs in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron at Leopardstown, in which stablemates Hydrangea, Roly Poly and Rhododendron are among 12 declared.

Last year's runner-up Persuasive is one of three British challengers along with German 1,000 Guineas heroine Unforgetable Filly and Wuheida. Qemah, third when a hot favourite 12 months ago, looks a key player too while Fozzy Stack's Diamond Fields, the Tony Martin-trained Laganore, Jim Bolger's Bean Feasa and Intricately from Joseph O'Brien's yard make up the field.

Winter has traded at odds-on but, speaking to the 'Punter's Platform' podcast yesterday, O'Brien said: "All (the Matron runners) are well. Winter is in good form.

"She has had a little bit of time off since Goodwood and she is in good form but will come on from the run, we thought, with the autumn in mind for her.

"Hydrangea is a little bit the same. Rhododendron is just ready to start off and we are hoping for a nice run. Roly Poly is a hardy filly."

Churchill is the star attraction in a 10-strong field declared for the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes. The Ballydoyle handler also saddles Epsom Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher, fourth behind Churchill in the Juddmonte, and Secretariat second Taj Mahal.

"Churchill is in really good order and will improve from York (when second to Ulysses)," O'Brien went on. "We knew that Winter would improve from this weekend so we went the easier option with her. At the moment it wouldn't have been fair to put her against Churchill."

The British challenge is headed by Martyn Meade's stable star Eminent, which enjoyed a Group Two success at Deauville a few weeks ago and will be partnered by Frankie Dettori for the first time.

The Michael Stoute-trained Poet's Word and Decorated Knight from Roger Charlton's stable also make the journey across the Irish Sea.

Dermot Weld saddles The Grey Gatsby, which won this prize in 2014 when trained by Kevin Ryan, and Grade One-winning mare Zhukova. Jim Bolger's Moonlight Magic and Ken Condon's stable stalwart Success Days complete the line-up.

There was big news with regard to the Curragh's card on Sunday yesterday morning as Big Orange was effectively scratched from the Comer Group International Irish St Leger because of unsuitable ground. Trainer Michael Bell has decided not to risk sending over his Ascot Gold Cup winner to Ireland due to the prospect of further rain over the next couple of days.

"Given the prevailing ground conditions of yielding to soft, I'm afraid we won't be running," Bell told At The Races.

Conditions are expected to turn quite testing at the Curragh, and O'Brien's Magical, the Debutante winner on easy terrain, was backed into Moyglare favourite yesterday. He is not ruling out the brilliant Clemmie running but this is now in real doubt.

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Campeador to stay hurdling - Elliott

Campeador, perhaps the least fortunate horse in training, will stay hurdling this term.

Favourite for the County Hurdle in March, JP McManus' grey looked well-treated by getting a 6lb rise from the handicapper after falling when in command at Fairyhouse in December.

This was his first run since he fell when challenging at the last in the Fred Winter two seasons ago. "It's all good with him and he'll stay hurdling this season," said Elliott.

Another promising hurdler, Sayar, could go to the Listowel Festival next week, says Willie Mullins, for whom he won his first jumping start by 16 lengths at Kilbeggan.

He could have a major say too in the Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue on Tuesday, Law Girl his sole entry for the €55,000 contest.

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