Hurricane Force On Sensational Saturday

Hurricane Lane | Scoop Dyga

Many open questions surrounding some of Europe's best will be answered in the space of less than an hour on Saturday, with Leopardstown's G1 Irish Champion S. and Doncaster's G1 Cazoo St Leger condensed in the middle of an absorbing spell of action. There will barely be time to reflect on the promise of the winner of the G2 KPMG Champions Juvenile S. that forms part of Irish Champions weekend before the focus is switched to Town Moor for its own glimpse of futurity in the G2 Champagne S. In between is the G1 Coolmore America “Justify” Matron S. and G2 Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile back at Foxrock and the seven-furlong G2 Cazoo Park S. which is the penultimate pattern race of Doncaster's St Leger festival. Within 145 minutes, eight group races will be run across the two venues featuring five individual 2021 Classics winners and a plethora of galacticos from all the right places.

Despite the allure of Godolphin's Hurricane Lane (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) in the Leger, it is hard to be drawn away from the Irish Champion itself as the feature event of the day with a trio of the highest order engaged in the ultimate cat-and-mouse antics around Leopardstown's demanding circuit. Will Kevin Manning have to carry the fight to the hold-up merchants St Mark's Basilica (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) and Tarnawa (Ire) (Shamardal) on the G1 2000 Guineas and G1 St James's Palace S. winner Poetic Flare (Ire) (Dawn Approach {Ire})? Unbeaten in two starts here, albeit in lesser company, the Bolger homebred was positively ridden when taking the G3 Killavullan S. in October and on his return in the Apr. 11 Listed 2000 Guineas Trial over seven furlongs, but this is further than he has gone so far.

Ryan Moore's tactic will be to sit and wait on his star colt, who has displayed stunning acceleration on more than one occasion, most notably in the G1 Eclipse at Sandown July 3. Yet he is unproven in a fast-run mile-and-a-quarter contest on fast ground, so St Mark's Basilica will have to be at his dynamic best to put Poetic Flare to the sword and evade the onslaught of Tarnawa. Moore was weighing up the contest on Friday. “I have lots of respect for Tarnawa. She looked a super filly at the back end of last season,” he said. “Poetic Flare has been great all season, but the 2000 Guineas winner is stepping up in trip here and that could be difficult against the top two. My lad has gears though and I'm expecting a very big run in a quality race.”

Aidan O'Brien is ponderinng the opportunity for a 10th renewal with the horse he has been so effusive about this year. “He's very offhanded and very straightforward. He has a great mind, he relaxes, he has a great stride and is very genuine–he has all the things that you would love in a horse,” he commented. “The Irish Champion S. is a great race every year. For older horses having an autumn campaign, it's the tops really.”

Colin Keane has already felt the power of The Aga Khan's 5-year-old in the GI Breeders' Cup Turf and in the 12-furlong G3 Ballyroan S. on her return here Aug. 5. Her ability to quicken off a moderate pace over this trip was proven in the G1 Prix de l'Opera at ParisLongchamp in October, so any holes in her have yet to be found and she will relish this stiff uphill finish. “She was good in the Ballyroan. I think they left her off for longer by design, very much thinking of a backend campaign with her,” her rider said. “She came back much stronger physically this year. We thought going to Leopardstown she was about 70% and there was plenty to work on, so to put up the performance she did I thought was very impressive. We're dropping back two furlongs at the weekend, but she's proven herself over that trip as well. It's a very good renewal of the race–you're taking on two of the best 3-year-olds in Ireland, if not Europe. It's not going to be easy, but I don't think I'd swap her for anything.”

Hurricane To The Test

If the St Leger turns out to be tactical, it will be a surprise with Aidan O'Brien fully loaded with strong stayers including The Mediterranean (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who responded so well to forcing the pace in the G2 Great Voltigeur S. at York Aug. 18. 'TDN Rising Star' High Definition (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) looks to need a severe test of stamina, while Interpretation (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) is the only runner in the line-up who has won over the trip in the Listed Vinnie Roe S. at Leopardstown Aug. 12. All that said, Hurricane Lane is certain to stay this extended 14-furlong trip on pedigree and looks a class above based on his emphatic win in the July 14 G1 Grand Prix de Paris which proceeded his impressive surge to take the G1 Irish Derby at The Curragh June 26.

Charlie Appleby is not looking at the distance as a problem. “Obviously, it is the big question for all of them. Will they stay the extra two furlongs? In his case, I think he will,” he said. “He goes into the Leger with rock-solid form. He's only been beaten once–he finished third in the Derby and he lost two shoes. We feel there is enough evidence there to say he will stay. He is the class horse in the field.”

“After travelling to Ireland and France, he is a mentally sharper horse,” Appleby added. “When he went to Epsom in June, he was unbeaten in three starts and relatively inexperienced. That was his undoing on the day. But what we have seen since is a much sharper model. He is mentally stronger and more mature and he is ready for this. William [Buick] rode him in a good piece of work 10 days out from the Leger and he was delighted. He looked great, he moved well. He's been doing routine work since then, and he continues to please.”

Aidan O'Brien said of his team, “High Definition had a little slip in the Irish Derby when he stumbled and he just lost his confidence a bit. York was his first run back after that and we were happy with his run there and we thought he would come on mentally for it. He's a horse we've always thought could get further than a mile and a half. The Mediterranean is in good form and he ran very well at York the last day. We've been happy with him and it looks like he might stay a bit further. Sir Lucan is well–he ran well at Goodwood and wasn't beaten far at York as well. Frankie just thought a little bit more cover might have suited him, but he still ran a nice race. Interpretation has been gradually progressive and he looks like he stays very well–he's a very relaxed horse.”

Ahead of Hurricane Lane in the June 5 G1 Epsom Derby was Amo Racing's Mojo Star (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}), who was only fifth in the Irish equivalent before belatedly breaking his maiden at Newbury Aug. 14. Trainer Richard Hannon said he believes the trip will bring out the best in him and said, “The flat, galloping track will suit. He was probably soundly beaten at The Curragh, but we almost got knocked over and it took him a long time to get going. The extra two furlongs will suit him much more. He'll get the trip–the harder they go, the more it will be to his liking. He ran a very good race in the Derby. He's not the one to beat, but he's been underrated and deserves to take his chance.”

O T I Racing's improving Ottoman Emperor (Ire) (Excelebration {Ire}) beat the subsequent Voltigeur fourth Sir Lucan (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) in Goodwood's G3 Gordon S. July 29 and heads into uncharted territory trip-wise, but trainer Johnny Murtagh is making waves in his second career and is expecting a bold show. “He came out of the Gordon S. at Goodwood really well and we've freshened him up–it's been a while since he ran, but that was the plan as had been busy through the early part of the season,” he said. “A mile and six is a bit of an unknown, but he races lazily so he'll give himself every chance.”

“It's a long way down that straight at Doncaster if they get racing early, but he's very well and I'm very happy going over there,” Murtagh added. “He's in good shape and Ben [Coen] is very happy with him. He never gives you 100%, so he's never really tired after his races. He's always hanging on to a little bit. I'm hoping that, when he does dig deep on Saturday, there is a bit more. We haven't got to the bottom of him yet and, although it's a big ask, we could not be happier with him.”

Matron Down To Earth

The third of the Group 1 races on the afternoon is the Matron at Leopardstown, with Ballydoyle's G1 1000 Guineas and G1 Prix Rothschild winner Mother Earth (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) taking on last year's winner Champers Elysees (Ire) (Elzaam {Aus}) and Haras de Saint Pair's improving July 11 G3 Brownstown S. and Aug. 26 G3 Fairy Bridge S. winner Pearls Galore (Fr) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}). Also in the mix is the May 22 G2 Lanwades Stud S. winner Epona Plays (Ire) (Australia {GB}) and the G1 Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Empress Josephine (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in a wide-open affair should Mother Earth fail to give her customary best.

Ryan Moore has abundant faith in Mother Earth and said, “She has only been out of the first three in one of her 13 races and the last day, in the Prix Rothschild, she showed the tenacity and will to win that has been on display all season. Empress Josephine is an Irish 1000 Guineas winner on heavy ground, so any rain that falls will be in her favour. It's very competitive, but I wouldn't swap Mother Earth for anything in here.”

Champers Elysees has taken time to come to herself this term, but there were indications last time when second attempting to give Acanella (GB) (Dansili {GB}) seven pounds in The Curragh's nine-furlong G3 Snow Fairy Fillies S. Aug. 27 that she is again nearing a peak. “She's coming along nicely and is in great form,” trainer Johnny Murtagh said. “She had a few little hiccups earlier in the year and we thought she ran well at Ascot. We then went over again for the Falmouth where she didn't get a great run and got a bit smashed. She came out of the Curragh race really, really well. She's fit, she's ready to go and I think she's as good as she has been all year. She has to step up again, but maybe she's a filly that comes good at this time of year. She doesn't mind any ground and it's good, fast ground, the same as last year, and a similar race.”

Future Stars

Next year's Classic stars could be on show in England and Ireland, with The Queen's Aug. 21 G3 Solario S. winner Reach For the Moon (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) tackling Al Shaqab Racing's July 8 G2 July S. and Aug. 20 G2 Gimcrack S. scorer Lusail (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}) in the Champagne. In receipt of three pounds, the John and Thady Gosden trainee is heavily favoured to make that count, with the leader of Richard Hannon's juveniles certain to have his stamina tested moving back up to seven furlongs from the six over which he took those prestigious Newmarket and York contests. There is also Teme Valley and Ballylinch Stud's Aug. 14 Listed Washington Singer S. runner-up Bayside Boy (Ire) (New Bay {GB}) to consider in a fascinating affair, but Frankie Dettori is happy to be in the hotseat.

“In the last two races he hardly saw a horse, so this is the first big test,” he said of The Queen's most high-profile 2-year-old in decades. “We're building him up, he's getting more experience and he's done nothing wrong so far. This horse is a work in progress at the moment. We're keeping him busy. We feel the more experience he gets, the better he gets. Saturday will be another key point. I've got plenty of confidence in him. He's exciting, and Her Majesty is our biggest asset in racing.”

“Everybody is thinking about next year–I'm thinking one race at a time,” Dettori added. “Let's get Saturday out of the way and then progress. All the boxes are ticked and everything is going in the right direction. After the Solario, myself and John felt the experience of racing is doing him good and that is why we are getting him out. To have a colt of this calibre for The Queen is exciting.”

Hannon said of Lusail, “It looks a very good race and it always is. I'm very happy with my horse. He's won a Gimcrack, won a July S.–you don't do that unless you're a very good horse. It would obviously be easier without a penalty, but he carried a penalty in the Gimcrack and dealt with that no problem. He's a big, strong horse and he will carry a big weight. He's not just a 2-year-old. I've always known he'd get seven furlongs and maybe further. He's a Guineas horse for next year and you might even see some improvement at seven. Reach For the Moon looked a very good horse when he won the Solario. He probably is the one to beat, but it's a good race and very competitive.” Roger Varian said of Bayside Boy, “It's a strong race, but we're keen to give it a go. He's in good order and should run very well. I think there's more improvement to come from him.”

At Leopardstown, the Champions Juvenile over a mile sees Coolmore and Westerberg's Absolute Ruler (War Front) look to build on his debut success at Dundalk Aug. 15, with Sean Jones, David Spratt and Lynne Lyons's June 27 Curragh maiden winner Atomic Jones (Fr) (Wootton Bassett {GB}) another unexposed type there to test Team Valor's standard-bearer Maritime Wings (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}). Second to Point Lonsdale (Ire) (Australia {GB}) in both the G3 Tyros S. here July 22 and in The Curragh's G2 Futurity S. Aug. 21, the latter will be unfortunate to run into a peer of that calibre in this affair.

Joseph O'Brien saddles Maritime Wings and Qatar Racing's Buckaroo (GB) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), who beat Ballydoyle's re-opposing Stone Age (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in an extended mile maiden at Galway at the end of July. “Maritime Wings has had a very good campaign already, making a winning debut in a maiden over this course and distance prior to twice finishing second to Point Lonsdale in group company,” he said. “He doesn't have that colt to deal with here and those runs make him the form pick in this. There are a few unexposed ones in against him that look very promising, but he sets the bar good and high for them. He shouldn't have any issue with this longer trip and he looks to have a very good chance.”

“Buckaroo is a big colt that has always showed plenty at home. He made a really promising debut in a strong maiden at Killarney, having missed the kick badly and he built on that to win a maiden at the Galway Festival last time. This track should suit him well and we feel he has improved well since that win. He's a horse we like a lot and he shouldn't be underestimated.”

Mac Is Back

Also at Leopardstown, the Boomerang Mile–which is registered as the Solonaway S.–plays host to the G1 Irish 2000 Guineas hero Mac Swiney (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}), who drops down in trip and class having proven a touch disappointing on each of his last three starts over further. They include a fifth in the G1 Juddmonte International at York Aug. 18, but he should be more in his comfort zone here tackling the likes of Newtown Anner Stud Farm's May 9 G3 Amethyst S. scorer and July 15 G3 Meld S. runner-up Maker of Kings (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}). Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez's 'TDN Rising Star' Thunder Moon (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}), who captured the G1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National S. in scintillating style on this weekend 12 months ago, looked to be back on track when second in the G1 Prix Jean Prat over seven furlongs at Deauville July 11, but it was back to the drawing board after he beat only one of his 11 rivals in that venue's G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over half a furlong shorter Aug. 8.

“Thunder Moon was another one of our star 2-year-olds last season that hasn't had the smoothest of campaigns this season, but he showed that he still retains a lot of his ability when a close second in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville in July,” Joseph O'Brien said. “He shouldn't be judged too harshly on his latest run in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, as he got isolated in the middle of the track following the wrong horse. His low draw is ideal and the firmer the ground, the better his chance.”

   The G3 Paddy Power S., or Kilternan as it is better known, rounds off the pattern-race action on the card with the Aug. 13 G3 Royal Whip S. winner Earlswood (GB) (Pivotal {GB}) renewing rivalry with Ballydoyle's Innisfree (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) who was fifth after a long lay-off in that Curragh contest. Johnny Murtagh said of Earlswood, “He came out of the Curragh really well and it was a nice, smooth win. It's always a very, very competitive race but we think he's in good shape and he needs a bit of rain to come. We have big targets for him now until the end of the season. I thought he might be a Leger horse one day because his brother won the Chester Cup over two miles two [furlongs], but he seems to be getting a bit sharper with racing.”

Ryan Moore retains faith in the 2019 G2 Beresford S. winner Innisfree and said, “He was a very high-class 2-year-old, but he missed his 3-year-old campaign and Aidan started him back after a 651-day absence in the Royal Whip at the Curragh last month, where he ran very well to finish fifth. The vibes seem positive about him and this looks like a good opportunity to get him back on track, but he has to turn that from around with Earlswood.”

Doncaster's Park S. lacks an obvious star turn, but in Shadwell's 3-year-old Laneqash (GB) (Cable Bay {Ire}) surprised when runner-up on his seasonal bow in Newbury's G2 Hungerford S. over this seven-furlong trip Aug. 14 and is open to abundant progression meeting the operation's July 24 International H. winner Danyah (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}). “Dane O'Neill gave him a lovely ride that day after his absence and hopefully he can build on that now he's reunited with Jim Crowley on Town Moor,” Laneqash's trainer Roger Varian said on Friday. “The trip, ground and track will be in his favour and we can hope for a strong showing tomorrow.”

Sunday's feature races took their final shape on Friday, with ParisLongchamp's day of Arc trials featuring the outstanding Snowfall (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) meeting six rivals in the G1 Qatar Prix Vermeille, while at The Curragh the aforementioned 'TDN Rising Star' Point Lonsdale tackles some intriguing rivals including Al Shaqab's Aug. 8 G1 Phoenix S. hero Ebro River (Ire) (Galileo Gold {GB}) in the G1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National S. Moyglare Stud's Search For a Song (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) looks to make it three consecutive wins in the G1 Comer Group International Irish St Leger, which has attracted a field of 14.

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