CLASSICS, Group 1s as if they are going out of fashion, Arc trials and competitive handicaps – everywhere you turn in Europe this weekend there’s a horse race to savour.
For some it will be the Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster that sets the pulse racing. Others will turn to the Champion Stakes in Ireland. And that’s not to mention the National Stakes and Portland Handicap.
And then over in France the Arc trials and the Grand Prix de Paris which features the return of Serpentine, the runaway Derby winner that has confused everyone.
Is he a superstar? Or is he a fluke Epsom hero in a shocking renewal of the world’s most important test of the thoroughbred? It’s time to find out.
Let’s start with that great old Classic the St Leger, which provides Frankie Dettori with a great chance to follow up last year’s success on the hugely talented Logician.
The Italian will be on board Santiago for Aidan O’Brien, and there’s every chance he will score after wins in the Queen’s Vase and Irish Derby. He was also far from disgraced when third behind Stradivarius in the Goodwood Cup.
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Dettori would be a good story for the St Leger.
But a success for Great Voltigeur hero Pyledriver would be an even better one.
Trained by William Muir and ridden by Martin Dwyer, Pyledriver was bred out of a mare who failed as a jumper. Her owners are not on the breadline, but it’s fair to say a success in the Leger would be relative rags to riches.
The other fascinating runner is the fast-improving Hukum, who looked good when landing the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot and even better in the Geoffrey Freer last time. Owen Burrows his trainer is having a terrific season and, of course, jockey Jim Crowley recently hit the milestone of two thousand winners.
The Leger is live on ITV, as is the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown at 4.10pm featuring the world’s top rated equine athlete in Ghaiyyath.
There’s nothing fairytale about his success, being a son of the great Dubawi owned by Godolphin. That said, he’s come of age this term landing the Coronation Cup, Eclipse and Juddmonte International with front-running skills that have broken no less than Enable and Stradivarius.
Ghaiyyath will probably make all again, although there’s a chance Armory is in there as a spoiler, with Magical having plenty to find on paper.
Ryan Moore is on board Japan, and that’s no surprise as the former champion has long claimed this former Juddmonte International winner is a bit special. The problem is what Moore sees has yet to really be translated to the track.
French raider Sottsass has looked very good on occasions, including when winning the French Derby as a three-year-old. However, he was beaten in Group 3 class last time and I would be stunned if he could beat a class act like Ghaiyyath.
Racing has always been a game for looking to the future, and Sunday’s Group 1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes over seven furlongs promises to be a cracker.
Battleground might not even be favourite for Aidan O’Brien, despite landing the Chesham and Vintage Stakes in fine fashion. I’ve loved the way he responds when put under pressure. Like his mum and Breeders’ Cup and Arc heroine Found he has a huge heart.
Jessica Harrington has Lucky Vega primed, and he impressed when taking the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes when last seen.
Matt Chapman’s ITV tips for Saturday’s racing
But the horse I can’t wait to see is another for Appleby and Godolphin in Master of the Seas. He’s won both his starts at Newmarket and destroyed the useful Devious Company in the Superlative Stakes.
Over in France on Sunday, Serpentine tackles the Group 1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at 2.50pm. This is a huge test for the Derby winner with the Classic form looking pants bar Pyledriver. I’m sure you are like me in that you have no idea if Serpentine is a star or not. We find out tomorrow.
Also in France on Sunday is the Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermeille, which will see Raabihah back in action for Jean-Claude Rouget.
Some of you might not be too familiar with the daughter of Sea the Stars, but she’s now won three of her four starts and smashed a field in Group 3 company at Deauville last time. Her trainer thinks she’s an absolute machine and he’s no mug!
What a weekend. Sit back in front of the box and enjoy!