Ghaiyyath The Star On Super Saturday

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Ghaiyyath | Scoop Dyga

There are few days in the European racing calendar as replete with top-class action as Saturday, with Doncaster's St Leger festival reaching its climax as the Irish Champions Weekend begins at Leopardstown. With the exception of Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}), Godolphin's phenomenon of 2020 Ghaiyyath (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) has emerged to dominate the middle-distance division and he bids to extend that to Ireland as he takes in the G1 Irish Champion S. With Magical (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in opposition, on paper his task involves a simple repeat of his G1 Juddmonte International heroics but little is ever as simple in the reality of Thoroughbred competition. Many champions elect have gone to this country in the past with impeccable credentials only to suffer a cruel dethroning, such is the level of competition entered into. If he needs any help, it could be available from Leopardstown's track which has played to a front-running bias on occasion this year. If that is the case again and he is firing on all cylinders after a trio of tough efforts, he should prove as impossible to peg back as he has so far during his sensational campaign.

In many ways, the 5-year-old represents the confirmation of the resurgence of the operation in recent years and Charlie Appleby is aware of his status among the legions of luminaries to sport the royal blue. “Ghaiyyath is already the highest-rated I have had the privilege to train and he will always be regarded as one of Godolphin's great horses. He is special,” he said. “This is a wonderful Godolphin story. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has followed the progress of Ghaiyyath very closely from the time he was purchased as a foal five years ago and it is pleasing to see a descendant of Godolphin greats Dubai Millennium and Dubawi also making his mark at the highest level. His performances are always very big–he's never easy on himself even when he's winning. He puts those big figures out there and in the past it's taken its toll, but thankfully this year he's taken each race very well. A decision on the Arc will be a wait-and-see. We purposefully took our time before deciding to definitely run in Ireland, we just took it day-by-day and we'll regroup after it.”

Last year's winner Magical needs something extra to shake up Ghaiyyath, but Aidan O'Brien believes it could be in the reserves. “She doesn't owe anybody anything. She's raced against the best. We feel we haven't really seen the best of her yet,” he said. “Someday when everything will fall right she'll be at the height of her powers and we'll see. She's a serious, high-rated, incredibly genuine mare. We keep tweaking things as we go along to see if we can get another little bit from her to get her to show everybody what she shows us at home every day.” Ryan Moore has opted to ride last year's Juddmonte International winner Japan (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) over Magical and he has 2 1/4 lengths to make up on the Godolphin flag-bearer having finished third in Sandown's G1 Eclipse S. on July 5. Subsequently last of three when injuring a foot in the G1 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth QIPCO S. at Ascot on July 25, he will be tested to the extreme here. O'Brien said of him, “He came back from Ascot with very sore soles in his feet. He's in full work and has been taking it very happily. He's travelling well in his work and everything seems good, so it was a legitimate excuse.”

Japan was fourth when White Birch Farm's 2019 G1 Prix du Jockey Club hero Sottsass (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) was a half-length ahead in third in the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and it will be interesting to see how they fare under these contrasting conditions. Successful in the G1 Prix Ganay over 10 1/2 furlongs at Chantilly on June 14 and a neck second to Skalleti (Fr) (Kendargent {Fr}) when attempting to give that smart rival six pounds in Deauville's G3 Prix Gontaut-Biron on heavy ground on his return on Aug. 15, Sottsass is in deep here. Jockey Colin Keane commented, “Obviously Ghaiyyath was impressive the last day, Magical is the queen, she never runs a bad race and our horse I'd say has been trained with an autumn campaign in mind so you might not have seen the best of him yet.”

 Doncaster Serves Up Competitive Leger

   At Doncaster, the G1 Pertemps St Leger will now be contested by 11 runners after Ed Walker took out the G1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris-bound English King (Fr) (Camelot {GB}) on Friday morning. There is no clear favourite at present, with the trio of Pyledriver (GB) (Harbour Watch {Ire}), Santiago (Ire) (Authorized {Ire}) and Hukum (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) all close together at the top of the market. Also popular is the Aug. 29 Listed Yeats S. winner Galileo Chrome (Ire) (Australia {GB}) in a renewal that is as open as it is competitive and that Joseph O'Brien representative will now be partnered by English King's proposed rider Tom Marquand after Shane Crosse was ruled out with a positive COVID test. Pyledriver comes via the tried-and-tested route of York's Aug.  19 G2 Great Voltigeur, which he won under a penalty for his prior success in the G2 King Edward VII S. at Royal Ascot on June 16. Santiago bids to emulate the 2017 winner Capri (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in coming off a success in the G1 Irish Derby at The Curragh on June 27, while Hukum looks for a first Shadwell victory in this Classic having impressed when beating his elders in the G3 Geoffrey Freer S. over an extended 13 furlongs at Newbury on Aug. 15.

   Pyledriver's trainer Willie Muir has the chance of a lifetime ahead of him and said, “The horse had a quiet week to 10 days after York, but he's back in his normal routine now and he's as fit as a flea. You don't dream about how good it would feel to win, you dream about all the things that could go wrong. If it comes off, what it would do for me and the yard would be immense. I think he'll stay. He is in fantastic form and if he stays, it will take a very good one to beat him.”

Aidan O'Brien said of Santiago, “It maybe didn't work as we'd liked [when third] in the [G1] Goodwood Cup. We usually like to take our time on him and he just hit the gates on Ryan and he couldn't really get him back. He was just sitting in the second position and Ryan would have felt maybe he was a gear too high all the way. Because of that he went from travelling very well to having to drop him and ask him to go and race very quickly and he really didn't get his breath to go again. It didn't really work, but it didn't do him any harm and he seems to be in good form. We had to give him a little bit of an easy time after it, because obviously when things don't work or go smooth for a horse usually they have a harder race, but he seems to be in good form again.”

Hukum is perhaps the one who has yet to truly show his hand, much as Logician (GB) (Frankel {GB}) was 12 months ago, and Angus Gold is hoping he will prove up to the task. “We're still learning about him, he's lightly-raced for the time of year, but he's done everything well this season,” he commented. “I'm not saying he's going to win a Leger, but I don't think he'll be far away. Owen [Burrows] has been at pains to say he's not simply a stayer, but at the same time he stayed well enough at Newbury to make you think he won't be beaten for stamina. He might not be good enough, but I'll be surprised if it's a lack of stamina that beats him. Hopefully next year we'll be looking at races like the Hardwicke and the King George.”

Following the drama which unfolded on Friday regarding Shane Crosse, Galileo Chrome is in the spotlight even more than he would be after demonstrating his class at Navan. “Last time out he quickened up impressively, he showed a big turn of foot. It was quite a hot race, obviously not as hot as the St Leger, but it was quite hot and he couldn't have been any more impressive,” trainer Joseph O'Brien said. “I think he goes there with a good each-way chance. He's got to step up a little to win, but we're hoping he'll run very well.”

Classic Showdown In Matron

The third of Saturday's top-level contests is the G1 Coolmore America 'Justify' Matron S. over a mile at Leopardstown and there is a rematch between the June 13 G1 Irish 1000 Guineas one-two Peaceful (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Fancy Blue (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}). Fancy Blue was on top when they met subsequently in the G1 Prix de Diane over 10 1/2 furlongs at Chantilly on July 5 before adding Goodwood's G1 Nassau S. to her tally on July 30. Since finishing third in the Diane, Peaceful has been rested and her rider Seamie Heffernan has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds her. Ryan Moore is on Fancy Blue, who would be providing Donnacha O'Brien with a major prize on this weekend in his first season with a licence.

“It's a great weekend, the biggest in Irish racing and I'm excited about having horses to run,” Donnacha said. “Fancy Blue starts out on her autumn campaign in the Matron S. and while the trip might not be ideal, she does have good form over a mile and she ran well in the Irish Guineas over this distance.”

This year's Matron is a hot contest and last year's G1 Prix Marcel Boussac heroine Albigna (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}), who was runner-up after a break in the G3 Snow Fairy Fillies S. over nine furlongs at The Curragh on Aug. 28, will need to improve to feature while progression is the watchword where Fitzwilliam Racing's Champers Elysees (Ire) (Elzaam {Aus}) is concerned. Successful by seven lengths in Galway's Listed Corrib Fillies S. over seven furlongs on July 28, the Johnny Murtagh trainee followed up in the G3 Fairy Bridge S. over another half a furlong at Gowran Park on Sept. 2 and boasts a similar profile to the now-infamous 2006 winner Red Evie (Ire) (Intikhab). “Her performance in Galway blew me away,” her trainer said. “I was very surprised the way that she won, the way she travelled and the way she quickened on ground that we weren't sure about. Since Galway she'd had very clear run–it's been smooth, her work has been good and she hasn't missed a day.” Murtagh also saddles Qatar Racing's July 1 G3 Derrinstown Stud Fillies S. winner and Aug. 2 G1 Prix Rothschild third Know It All (GB) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}), which serves as a measurement of how quickly his racing operation has advanced. “She's fresh and well–she's the best horse we have in the stable,” he said. “I thought if we had a good horse this year, it was her. She's a very big filly, good breeding. I think she's going there with a great chance. She has to improve seven to 10 pounds to be involved in the finish with all the good fillies' that are in it.”

Leopardstown's three other pattern races offer quality in abundance, with the G2 KPMG Champions Juvenile S. over a mile carrying the status of being a Breeders' Cup Challenge Race, as is also the case with the Irish Champion and Matron. Alpha Racing 2020's Cadillac (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}), who impressed with a nine-length debut win over seven furlongs here on July 1, was second in The Curragh's G2 Futurity S. also at that trip on Aug. 22 and has the call over Van Gogh (American Pharoah) on the form of that contest. Ballydoyle's Aug. 6 G3 Tyros S. runner-up was only sixth, but he carries the air of a big name waiting to happen and Ryan Moore is on board for the first time here. Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez's impressive July 23 course-and-distance maiden winner Fernando Vichi (Ire) (Australia {GB}) is an unexposed type held in high regard along with Newtown Anner Stud Farm's Ides of August (More Than Ready), who has not been seen since scoring on debut over seven furlongs here on June 21.

There is a fascinating clash in store in the G2 Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile, or Solonaway S. as it is registered, between Abdulla Belhabb's Aug. 29 G2 Celebration Mile winner Century Dream (Ire) (Cape Cross {Ire}), Ross Harmon's Aug. 22 G2 City of York S. scorer Safe Voyage (Ire) (Fast Company {Ire}) and Ballydoyle's June 13 G3 Gladness S. winner Lancaster House (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). The 12-furlong G3 Paddy Power 'Is It 2021 Yet?' S., or Kilternan S., sees Ballydoyle's Irish Derby runner-up Tiger Moth (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) encounter the year-older Joseph O'Brien representative Patrick Sarsfield (Fr) (Australia {GB}) who took the nine-furlong G3 Meld S. here on July 11 and was third in Munich's G1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis over another furlong last time on July 26. Aidan O'Brien said of Tiger Moth, “He's had a nice long break and is in good form. We think he's a mile-and-a-quarter, mile-and-a-half horse,” he said. “He has a little bit of class.”

Toast To A Star

Back at Doncaster, the G2 bet365 Champagne S. sees 'TDN Rising Star' Albasheer (Ire) (Shamardal) look to confirm the impression of his 6 1/2-length debut success over this course and distance on July 25. He meets Michael Pescod's unbeaten Chindit (Ire) (Wootton Bassett {GB}), who came out on top in a strong renewal of the Listed Pat Eddery S. at Ascot on July 25. Fourth that day, John Deer's Saint Lawrence (Ire) (Al Kazeem {GB}) has subsequently taken the Listed Washington Singer S. also over this seven-furlong trip at Newbury on Aug. 15 and re-opposes. Alongside Albasheer, Shadwell also has the seven-length Aug. 28 Newmarket novice scorer Mujbar (GB) (Muhaarar {GB}) and the racing manager Angus Gold is relishing seeing the pair in action.

“Albasheer's always looked a nice horse at home, he's a good-looking, strong horse who is well-bred by a very good stallion. From what we can see we hope he's a very good horse,” he said. “He did have the option of the listed race at this meeting, but he worked very nicely the other day and Owen [Burrows] was happy to let him take his chance in this. Mujbar beat a horse who had finished behind Minzaal, so we've a bit of a line on him. He looked a good, galloping horse to me at Newmarket.  They've always thought a bit of him, he's out of a good mare in Madany who has produced Massaat and Eqtidaar and he worked very well on Tuesday to the degree that Charlie [Hills] was happy enough to go for this–he said he thinks he's decent so let's have a look at him in the Champagne. We're never afraid to run them against each other, one has run twice the other just once and you never know until you run them. There's only a month left of the season and we're running out of big races.”

Limato In Long Awaited Return

Paul Jacob's popular seven-furlong specialist Limato (Ire) (Tagula {Ire}) has his favoured lively surface as he bids to register a second win in Doncaster's G2 bet365 Park S. that he took five long years ago. His latest authoritative success in the G3 Criterion S. at Newmarket on June 27 demonstrated that he is still able to operate at a high standard and trainer Henry Candy is in positive mood. “Conditions should be perfect on Saturday, which is a relief as it's been a long summer of abortive attempts,” he said. “It was a long time ago when he won. He's been ready for four races since, but they've all been too soft. I think he's well, he should run well and he didn't look to be getting any slower at Newmarket.”

Ballydoyle try seven furlongs again with the June 6 G1 2000 Guineas runner-up Wichita (Ire) (No Nay Never), who was ridden by Frankie Dettori there before finishing third in Royal Ascot's G1 St James's Palace S. on June 20. Only eighth in the 6 1/2-furlong G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville Aug. 9, he possibly has ideal conditions here. “Wichita is a very interesting ride. The question mark is the return to seven furlongs, but I think that should be ideal,” Dettori said. “He's a fast horse that ran well over a mile–second in a Guineas and a close third in the St James's Palace–and we think this trip will really suit him.”

Wichita was half a length second to Shadwell's Molatham (GB) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) in the Listed Flying Scotsman S. over this course and distance 12 months ago and Molatham has since captured Royal Ascot's G3 Jersey S. on June 18 before finishing fifth in Deauville's G1 Prix Jean Prat also over this trip on July 12. Trainer Roger Varian said, “Molatham is in great form and we're looking forward to getting him back on track. I don't think he ran his race in Deauville, but it still wasn't a bad run.”

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