What a weekend it is about to be. Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In Series is alive and well in Ireland with 5 tickets to the big dance on the line, three at Leopardstown and two at The Curragh. On top of that, both Saturday and Sunday’s cards in Ireland feature top class action heading towards Arc Day and a possible tilt at Breeders’ Cup glory. The matchup of St. Mark’s Basilica, Tarnawa and Poetic Flare is just one of the many top clashes we will see in the coming days.
Superstar Hurricane Lane is a name who will be making his return to the races, however he will be out at Doncaster to close out the Cazoo St. Leger Meeting. This year’s St. Leger features a big field with several progressive runners trying to take down one main rival who looks to head to the Arc in one month’s time. With lots of action still to come from Ireland and France on Sunday, it will be a weekend to remember in European racing.
Leopardstown – Saturday
Race 1 – Ingabelle Stakes – 7 Furlongs, 2 Year Old Fillies
6 – Lullaby – The Ballydoyle team took a shot with this filly first up debuting in the GIII Flame Of Tara Stakes, finishing a decent 4th behind a well bred Magical Lagoon. Was a decent effort especially with it being first up, should show strong improvement going to listed company here. Despite the 4th place finish I think they made the right call with the debut.
11 – Voice Of Angels – This filly by Dark Angel is still looking to break the maiden, however she has been in two pretty competitive maiden races and ran well. On figures she shouldn’t be the price that she is and should handle the ground without any issues. Great price play.
2 – Corviglia – The Jessica Harrington trainee backed up a decent 2nd up breaking the maiden with a big performance in open company at Roscommon. Has shown steady improvement so far in her young career. Breeding suggests some added distance won’t hurt in the future but at the same time with her progression she is a logical favorite in this spot.
Race 2 – GII KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes – 1 Mile, 2 Year Olds
9 – Once Upon A River – Impressive 2nd up effort at Roscommon where she showed a lot of maturity for such a young horse. Should handle the ground well on Saturday and the step up in distance shouldn’t be an issue. Sire Churchill was a duel guineas winner, although he was never tested over more than 7 furlongs as a two year old.
1 – Absolute Ruler – Another well bred runner for a horse trained by an O’Brien, this War Front colt is out of multiple stakes winner Together Forever, a winner over a mile at two. Absolute Ruler broke the maiden impressively over the AW at Dundalk and makes her 2nd up start in stakes company. Gavin Ryan retains the mount. Looks to be a great spot for this horse to continue his improvement.
8 – Maritime Wings – The question with this horse who will most likely be favored is how good we think Point Lonsdale is. Point Lonsdale defeated this runner in his last two starts pretty handily and continues his run this weekend as well. Maritime Wings should appreciate both the added distance and the class relief, however I am not sold that he is as good as the market says simply because of who beat him.
Race 3 – GI Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes – 1 Mile, 3 & Up F&Ms
7 – Empress Josephine – After two very disappointing efforts in England, Empress Josephine heads back to Ireland to try and repeat her greatest triumph at the same distance. An Irish classic winner this season, she has been very hit or miss with her performances. Is dropping back from the mile and a quarter and at the price of about 16/1 currently she is worth the play that she will find herself given the fact the conditions should suit her.
3 – Epona Plays – Wasn’t disgraced in the GI Pretty Polly and we have seen some decent form come out of that race, especially in the form of Santa Barbara. Not sure how much the ground will suit, could use a bit of moisture but at the same time Epona Plays has shown top class efforts in recent starts. That performance two back over this distance at Leopardstown was strong and if she can replicate that performance, I don’t see much between her and heavy favorite Mother Earth. 11/1 currently in the market and I would be happy to take it.
10 – Mother Earth – The form around her most recent efforts and the performances she has put together have been top notch. Wasn’t the best field she beat over in France but losing to Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern is nothing to look down on. Has been ultra consistent handling all types of ground and showed she could run well internationally when 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juv. Fillies Turf to Aunt Pearl. She is very talented, but this will be a pretty tough test for her coming over to Ireland and I think at 7/5 currently she is way too low in the market.
Race 4 – GII Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile – 1 Mile, 3 & Up
5 – Real Appeal – Off of a strong win in the GIII Ballycorus at Leopardstown, Jessica Harrington decided to move this one up in distance after about a 2 month layoff. He ran a really strong 3rd that day and I think keeping him at this distance now, he will be primed for a very big run. It will be a step up in class from some of the horses he has faced so far this preparation but I think they have primed this horse for this day.
8 – Horoscope – The efforts all season have been hit or miss, with the hits being visually impressive. Yes they were against lower class but it looks like it’s time to try this step up in class. Took a shot at stakes company last time out at Killarney and was really good. There are some classy horses in this field, however I think when looking for the winner it will be a horse progressing from lower levels to take this Group 2 contest.
13 – Thunder Moon – A horse that has frustrated me throughout his 2021 campaign after so much promise as a 2 year old. The class relief will make a difference and did finally show that flash of ability when 2nd in the GI Prix Jean Prat in France. Extends back up to the mile which is an interesting move but at the same time it looks a good spot for him to finally take that desired step forward.
Race 5 – GI Irish Champion Stakes – 1 1/4 Miles, 3 & Up
4 – St. Mark’s Basilica – One of the most competitive fields in Europe, however this runner should be the favorite when they head to post. A minor setback cost him his highly anticipated run in the GI Juddmonte International which is a bit concerning, however there is very little to downgrade his season so far. I’m willing to take him as he is the best horse in this field, however this is a race where watching the market will be vital.
2 – Tarnawa – Her dominant run through 2020 was restarted going longer in the GIII Ballyroan Stakes over this course. Visually it was a decent return against inferior opposition, however it was a run she definitely needed to get going after a long layoff. Another situation where watching the prices through Worldpool will be important with the disparity between her and St. Mark’s Basilica. Still would rather have St. Mark’s Basilica but if Tarnawa is much better value than she’s worth the play.
3 – Poetic Flare – Not concerned about the step up in distance to the mile and a half. He gave the world #1 horse in Palace Pier a good run for his money in the Prix Jacques Le Marois and continues to show that strong form around the best in Europe. This will be an even bigger class test for Poetic Flare and I think the biggest difference here will be how the race is run.
Race 6 – GIII Paddy Power Stakes – 1 1/2 Miles, 3 & Up (Non-winners of a Group 1 Race)
9 – Sir Lamorak – This son of Camelot took a big swing at the GI Grand Prix de Paris and missed badly, finishing last of 11 in that field. Prior to that his efforts were looking good in handicap company and this spot seems like a much better target for him. I am expecting a big performance for a horse who will really enjoy the mile and a half when facing foes he can compete with.
8 – Earlswood – Played against this horse in the GIII Royal Whip Stakes and paid for it. My top pick that day, Reve De Vol ran a massive race and could not get by. Earlswood has now taken out two Group 3s and put together a decent effort to be 4th in the GI Irish Derby. You won’t get a good price here and honestly he isn’t that much better than a few in this field, but he will be the heavy favorite.
2 – Innisfree – Starting to round back into form after missing all of 2020. A Group 2 winner at 2, Innisfree put together needed that first start back and quite frankly may need this one as well. In time this horse will be right and ready to go in stakes company, but I personally need to see one more before I can pull the trigger.
Doncaster – Saturday
Race 2 – Portland Handicap – 6 Furlongs, 3 & Up
7 – Copper Knight – One of those situations where if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. He has climbed slightly in the weights, however this 7 year old son of Sir Prancealot has put together back to back massive efforts, winning a handicap at York and just missing another at Haydock. Only goes up 3 pounds this time and is 12/1 currently, well worth another play.
9 – Justanotherbottle – Handicap winner over this distance at Ripon and now drops back in class after a try at stakes company. Kevin Stott retains the ride as this horse may be dropping, but will be against a top level handicap field. There is obvious improvement coming with this runner and the performances have visually shown a much different horse. Look for another step forward.
16 – Treacherous – It’s been a bit of a jockey carousel for Treacherous recently, but he has performed decently well against class 2 handicap company and seems to have taken a liking to Doncaster. Will be a big price and based on the weather should get pretty suitable ground.
Race 3 – GII Champagne Stakes – 7 Furlongs, 2 & Up C&Gs
1 – Lusail – Has done little wrong in his young career and we continue to see how much progeny of Mehmas progress during their 2 year old seasons. Keep an eye on the odds for this one and if Reach For The Moon is a heavy favorite from Lusail, make this horse one the best of the day. Reach For The Moon has been very impressive and the short field may not help, but I think Lusail will be better on the day.
Race 4 – GII Park Stakes – 7 Furlongs, 3 & Up
5 – Laneqash – Has not found the winners’ enclosure since breaking the maiden on debut at Ascot last year. Despite that, the son of Cable Bay was very good at Doncaster last year just missing to a very talented two year old in New Mandate, as well as putting together a strong first up effort this prep in the GII Hungerford Stakes. Expect this horse to improve off of that effort and continue that improvement into a potential Group 1 run in the near future.
1 – D’Bai – Disappointed like several others when making the first start back on European soil from wintering in Dubai. That transition has been hit or miss all season for horses, however we have seen what D’Bai can do in Europe and I think with a little more time on the ground we will start to see that again. This 7 year old put together some strong performances in England last season and was a winner of the GII Zabeel Mile at Meydan. The ability is there, it just needs to transition countries and I think it will get better today.
4 – Oh This Is Us – A winner of the GII Diomed Stakes earlier this year, things have not gone to plan for this runner since that day. If the rain that is supposed to be there on Friday sustains and can keep the track wet, he will be a good play at a really big price. His worst performances came over good ground and if it is like that again I would be very careful. The elder statesmen of the field has ability, but may need some help from the weather gods to show it.
Race 5 – GI St. Leger Stakes – 1 13/16 Miles, 3 Year Olds Colts and Fillies
6 – Ottoman Emperor – A winner of 4 straight and 4 of 5 in his career, Ottoman Emperor caused a nice 11/1 upset when taking out the GIII Gordon Stakes LTO. He continues a climb in distance that shouldn’t be much of an issue and on ability is the most progressive horse outside of Hurricane Lane. There aren’t many in this field I would be willing to use against the multiple Group One winning stayer, but this is the main one.
3 – Hurricane Lane – A dominant winner of the GI Grand Prix de Paris, backing up his effort in an Irish Classic. Outside of being a part of stablemate Adayar’s dominant performance in the Cazoo Derby, Hurricane Lane has done nearly nothing wrong in his career. However with his stablemate garnering so much attention, he gets a backseat trip to the St. Leger. The Arc is on the possible agenda for this horse and if he performs the way he is expected to do so, it would be the most sensible option for the Godolphin team.
8 – Sir Lucan – Won a really nice listed contest at Navan a few starts back and stayed on well in two group efforts. A full-sibling to Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet, he should be able to get the distance. Sir Dragonet was tested down in Australia with a shorter trip in an early season Group One and was extremely disappointing, which showed that the more distance the better, not less.