Champion Stakes promises quality in abundance as big three primed for Leopardstown showdown

Champion Stakes promises quality in abundance as big three primed for Leopardstown showdown A HIGH-CLASS renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes is guaranteed with Tarnawa taking on the likes of St Mark’s Basilica and Poetic Flare in the September clash.

With October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe the main target for Tarnawa, trainer Dermot Weld is lining up a run at Leopardstown as preparation for the Paris trip.

The five-year-old boasts a sequence of five straight wins, and in his only run this year impressed with a six-length success in the Grant Thornton Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown – his first run in 271 days, reports History of Sport.

And it was last season that Tarnawa really started making the racing world sit up and take notice, claiming the Prix Vermeille and Prix de l’Opera before beating the favourite Magical in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland.

“I thought she was very impressive,” said Weld after her seasonal debut. “Today was the intended day to start, because it’s a long way from now to November, and there are a lot of bridges to cross. We could have waited for the Give Thanks Stakes at Cork, but with the possibility of heavy rain we thought it more prudent to come here.

“She has done all of her work at home. I would have loved to get her away two weeks ago but it just wasn’t possible. She has been going extremely well at home and has probably strengthened since last year.”

On plans for the rest of the year, Weld added: “It’s a long season, but where she runs between now and the Arc will be the decision. At the moment I’d say the Irish Champion Stakes would be the most likely. The Breeders’ Cup and Japan Cup come later in November and December, and please God there are many more months to come. But the Arc has always been the plan – it’s the reason she stayed in training.”

While Tarnawa is currently trading as the 6/1 favourite for the Arc, as Horse. Bet reports, she is the 10/3 second favourite for the Irish Champion Stakes, with St Mark’s Basilica ahead of her in the betting – Aidan O’Brien’s son of Siyouni installed as the 2/1 favourite for the Leopardstown feature. Lauded as an “incredible horse” by O’Brien, who has seen more than his fair share of top-class racers, the colt has enjoyed a memorable season with three runs and three wins: two classics and a Group One with victories at Longchamp in the French 2000 Guineas, Chantilly for the French Derby, before dominating his rivals in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.

The three-year-old finished 2020 as Europe’s highest-rated juvenile, having won the Dewhurst Stakes on his final start of last year, and is priced at 10/1 for the Arc. BBC Sport

The English 2000 Guineas winner Poetic Flare is just behind the leading two in the Leopardstown betting, and was narrowly defeated in the Prix Jacques Le Marios at Deauville by Palace Pier. The Jim Bolger-trained son of Dawn Approach lost little in a narrow defeat, just pipped on the line in a thrilling finish at Deauville

Starman tipped to shine brightest in Sprint Cup Showdown

Starman tipped to shine brightest in Sprint Cup Showdown HAYDOCK’S biggest race of the year, the Sprint Cup, is gearing up to be a high-class affair with Starman installed as the firm favourite to claim the £162K first prize. Some horse racing sites in the UK will offer good prices, odds and offers ahead of this event.

The Group One is a six-furlong test for the speedsters of Britain and Ireland, and has been in the grip of the English over recent years, with trainer Ed Walker keen to maintain that record with his four-year-old Darley July Cup winner.

Starman leads the betting despite following up his Newmarket success with defeat at Deauville, the trainer insisting he lost nothing in his third-placed finish in the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

Owner David Ward was keen to send him over the Channel in search of a second Group One, but the son of Dutch Art found both the conditions at the French track and the extra half a furlong not in his favour. BBC Sport

But Walker believes he will come on for the run despite registering a second defeat in seven career races, with the Sprint Cup still firmly in his sights.

“I’m very proud of him. He ran a massive race and was very brave. He’s genuine and talented and the ground just blunted his speed and put more of an emphasis on stamina,” said the Upper Lambourn trainer, who claimed his own first Group One success with Starman’s Darley July Cup victory at Newmarket.

“He was beaten by a couple of horses that have got very good form over further. I think he lost nothing in defeat and credit to David Ward for being brave enough to give it a shot.”

There’ll be stiff competition when he heads to Merseyside in September, with long-time rivals Dragon Symbol and Glen Shiel also near the top of the betting. Dragon Symbol was just over a length behind Starman in the Darley July Cup and despite Glen Shiel being down the field at Newmarket and at Deauville, the seven-year-old did inflict his only defeat on home shores in the QIPCO British Champion Spring Stakes at Ascot last year.

That reverse at Ascot, however, was in soft conditions, and Starman was taken out of the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot on account of the testing surface, with both owner and trainer having their fingers crossed for drying weather in the build up to Haydock, reports History of Sport.

The Sprint Cup trends point to the likes of Starman (9/2), Dragon Symbol (13/2) or Glen Shiel (9/1) being successful, with six of the last eight winners having been in the first three in the betting, and three of the last five favourites triumphing.

Further down the betting brings in the Irish contenders who will be targeting the Haydock showdown despite their distinctive lack of success in the race over recent years. The likes of Gustavus Weston and the Aidan O’Brien-trained Battleground will be hoping to mimic Gordon Lord Byron’s win in 2013 – the Tom Hogan-trained five-year-old beat Slade Power into second for an Irish one-two, the only success for the Irish in the race for almost 50 years.

There’s solid support for Gustavus Weston, who is currently trading at around 12/1, and Tipperary trainer Joe Murphy sends the horse over in great form following the most impressive win of his career under his belt – a front-running success under Gary Carroll in the Group 3 Rathasker Stud Phoenix Sprint Stakes at the Curragh.

Grand National – Girls on Top!

With the Aintree Grand National just around the corner (10th April) I’m sure we’re all starting to put thought into our selections. It’s a race that grabs everyone’s attention and whether you’re picking through skill or gut feeling, we’re all in with a shot of our selections winning over such a challenging and unpredictable course. Despite there being a 7/2 favourite this year (Cloth Cap) there are no guarantees in the Grand National.

There’s often so much more to a race than the event itself though. Katie Walsh in partnership with Betway, offers an illuminating take on the challenges faced by female jockeys over the years. We all like to think (naively perhaps) that people are recognised solely by their merits, but that is often not the case and sometimes even getting a foot in the door to begin with is a major hurdle. Considering the long history of the Grand National it’s actually rather shocking that it took the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 before a female even took the reigns in the event.

The very first women jockey in the Grand National was Charlotte Brew in 1977, with Geraldine Rees becoming the first woman to actually complete the race (in 1982). Visibility in the sport eventually led to greater achievements. Success followed for both Rosemary Henderson and Carrie Ford in the 90’s and 00’s, both placing fifth. Indeed it was Walsh herself who took these achievements to the next level in 2012 by finishing third on Seabass.

Three women jockeys are taking part in the 2021 Grand National, demonstrating that there is no turning back the tide now. Perhaps not this year, but it is surely now only a matter of time before we have our first female Grand National winner, in this, the ‘sport of kings’.

 

 

The Grand National That Never Was 1993

The Grand National That Never Was 1993 Justifiably described by commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan as ‘the most sensational occurrence during the long history of the world’s most famous steeplechase’, the ‘race that wasn’t’ was run, albeit not officially, at Aintree on April 3, 1993. After a second false start, starter Keith Brown raised, but did not unfurl, his red recall flag, such that it could not be seen by recall man Ken Evans, stationed further down the course, and the majority of the field set off towards the first fence, oblivious to the recall.

Before the false starts, caused by a faulty catch on the starting gate, the start of the Grand National had already been delayed by the presence of animal rights protesters on the course near the first fence. Consequently, many of the thirty jockeys who sent off steadfastly resisted attempts by officials, and by the crowd, to stop the race; some of them pulled up at the end of the first circuit, but others went out into the country for a second time and seven completed the course.

‘Victory’ went to Esha Ness, trained by Jenny Pitman and ridden by John White, who beat Cahervillahow, Romany King and The Committee in what would have been the second fastest time in Grand National history. However, even as he was calling the runners home, O’Sullevan referred to ‘the race that surely never was’. He was right because, following a lengthy enquiry, the stewards had little choice but to declare the race void and it was never re-run.