The theory that Madhmoon – runner‑up at Epsom – may eventually prove the best horse who ran in the Derby, will get another examination in the Group One Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown next month.
Meanwhile the colt – who travelled so strongly for such a long way in the colts’ Classic before finishing fourth in a farcical Irish Derby in which the subsequent winner Sovereign was given an easy lead – lines up at next month’s venue on Thursday and the trainer Kevin Prendergast reports his charge to be cherry-ripe as his top-class colt warms up for an autumn campaign.
“He couldn’t be better, he’s in great shape,” said the Irish handler of Madhmoon, who drops back to a mile for the first time since he was fourth to Magna Grecia in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May.
“It’s a start for him. He’s in the Champion Stakes – he has to have a run somewhere and this is a good place to run him. He’s been there three times. He’s won there twice and been second the other time. He likes the track and conditions suit him, so he should be there or thereabouts.”
It will be a serious blow if Madhmoon cannot take care of his Group Three race rivals on Thursday evening on his way to the Irish Champion where he is set to meet the classy filly Magical, who was confirmed on course by the trainer Aidan O’Brien on Wednesday.
Magical has chased home Enable three times and having failed by three‑parts of a length in a pulsating Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs last November, was again the same margin behind John Gosden’s mare in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
The Galileo filly went over a mile on O’Brien’s famous “Ascot gallop” at his Ballydoyle yard on Wednesday, moving past lead horse Barbados, himself second in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, in the closing stages. O’Brien said: “We gave Magical a break, but she is now ready to start back. The plan is for her to either go to the Irish Champion with or without a run.”
O’Brien’s 71-horse opening lot included Grand Prix de Paris winner Japan, who is reported to be on course for the Juddmonte International Stakes at York next week. The Derby third could then contest the Irish Champion, along with Epsom hero Anthony Van Dyck, who was taken through his paces by Donnacha O’Brien.
Sir Dragonet, fifth at Epsom, is an intended runner in Friday’s Royal Whip Stakes at The Curragh and also has Irish Champion Stakes possibilities along with a Prix Niel option. Next week’s York fixture will feature July Cup winner Ten Sovereigns, who will take on Battaash in the Nunthorpe Stakes before O’Brien runs the colt in the Flying Five Stakes on the Curragh card at the Irish Champion weekend.
O’Brien also had news of Guineas winners Magna Grecia and Hermosa. He said: “Magna Grecia has had a good break and could run in the Irish Champion Stakes and has the option of then dropping to a mile at Ascot in October [for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes]. He wasn’t the same horse at The Curragh as the one at Newmarket, and Hermosa’s last race was also a non-event and I’d be very happy going back to a mile with her next time [in the Matron Stakes].”
Thursday’s best bets
The predicted heavy rain across the country which forced the abandonment of the first day’s play in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s on Wednesday was enough to turn the ground testing at Salisbury and soft-ground performers are the horses to concentrate at the track on Thursday.
The highlight of the day’s racing is the Group Three Sovereign Stakes and conditions will be very much in favour of King Ottokar (3.50). The three-year-old colt is progressing with racing, as evidenced by his fine third at Royal Ascot on his most recent run, and his entries in future races suggests his shrewd trainer rates him better than he has so far shown.
Litigious (4.20) is another who catches the eye at the meeting now that the rains have arrived. John Gosden’s runner sluiced through the heavy ground at Chester’s May meeting and has probably got in on a pretty favourable official rating for her first run in a handicap.
Ryan Moore is slumming it at Yarmouth where, and I’m grateful to fellow racing scribe Terry Norman for this nugget of information, he is riding in a race in a grade (for horses rated up to 55) he hasn’t graced for over six years. Simba Samba (4.45) is the horse in question and it’s not just the fact that he has Moore on board that attracts attention as the selection looked primed to return to the winner’s enclosure when runner-up to Tone The Barone at this track last time out.