Three horses to note in the paying for Christmas list

When high-class fillies hit a rich vein of form they can be irresistible and there are three we must have on our side over the closing weeks of the season.
Three horses to note in the paying for Christmas list

Let’s start with Aidan O’Brien’s Alice Springs, a stunning winner of the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown last Saturday.

She arrived at Leopardstown as a winner of just one of her six races this season, but more importantly on the back of a dreadful effort on her previous appearance at Deauville, finishing eighth of ten runners.

Perhaps, another trainer might have thought she had done enough for the campaign, but O’Brien was having none of it.

I felt she was hard enough to fancy in such a competitive contest, taking into consideration as well that cut in the ground, on all known evidence, was hardly in her favour.

Last into the straight, the daughter of Galileo produced a terrific turn of foot down the outside to score going away by three and a quarter-lengths.

If anything Alice Springs appeared very much at home with an ease in the surface and that certainly augurs well for her through the autumn.

Plenty of us were blown away by the display, I know I was, but the handicapper took a more-sober view and raised her by only 3lbs.

Second on the list is Dermot Weld’s Zhukova, who landed a mile and a half Group 3 at Leopardstown.

Now Group 3’s are a dime a dozen and, ordinarily, one wouldn’t be getting too excited about such contests.

But the bare fact of winning a Group 3 only tells a small part of the story. Zhukova, a big mare, was returning from a break of 122 days.

There is little doubt that this relatively modest race was being used by Weld as preparation for the upcoming Group 1 for fillies and mares at Ascot.

It would have made no sense for her shrewd handler to have her totally primed and that’s surely why she was easy enough to back in the market.

Zhukova ran prominently throughout and was always going to win up the straight. It should have left her spot on for the stiff tests ahead and the fact she revels in soft ground is a major plus.

The third for our consideration, let’s call it the paying for Christmas list, is Aidan O’Brien admirable four-year-old, Found.

She has long been a cracker, as evidenced by her narrow defeat of Golden Horn in last year’s Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.

But this season has had its share of hiccups and her second at Leopardstown on Saturday, in the Irish Champion Stakes, was a fifth in-a-row.

But to doubt her resolution in any way would be quite ridiculous and her three parts of a length second to Almanzor was a mighty effort.

Supporting fillies, whether equine or human, can be a costly business, but we must make an exception in the case of Found, Alice Springs and Zhukova.

ANYONE else think they have seen Ryan Moore ride better than he did for Champions’ Weekend in Ireland?

He is the best flat jockey in these islands, no argument there, but I think, following a recent injury, that he was below his best at both Leopardsown and the Curragh.

I’m on record as being no fan of US army Ranger, but you could argue he was given a bit too much to do by Moore when chasing home Zhukova at Leopardstown.

I’m of the opinion also that Moore was lucky Alice Springs got him out of a hole in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.

Basically, she looked to have an impossible task off the home turn and was hampered to boot when starting her initial challenge.

And I thought it was gas listening to people falling over themselves to explain how difficult it is to ride in a four horse race, after Order Of St George and Moore had been shocked by Frankie Dettori and Wicklow Brave in the Irish Leger at the Curragh.

Why not spit out the truth and call as it was, that Dettori simply rode the ears off Moore. Now if young Joseph had been in the plate?

I WILL hold my hands up and, yes, finally admit I am now a true believer. What do I believe in, Churchill, of course?

He went to the Curragh for the National Stakes with a decent record, having won his three previous races.

But here’s one who was far from convinced and crabbed him in this column. He won a Listed race, then a Group 3 and a Group 2, but, to my eyes, was less than convincing.

But come the Curragh and a Group 1 it was like looking at an entirely different horse. There was so much to admire about the way he went about things and to beat the smart Mehmas by over four lengths spoke for itself.

It was an awesome display of speed and staying power and I cannot envisage being against him again, until knowing better.

TO my eyes Bondi Beach shaped with a lot of promise at Leopardstown, when third in that Group 3 behind Zhukova and US Army Ranger.

He raced at the back for the most part and wasn’t given a hard time of it in the straight by Emmet McNamara.

He was doing all of his best work at the end of the inadequate 12 furlongs and there may be lots of improvement to come. Bondi Beach has been given 55kg in the Melbourne Cup on November 1, which equates to 8-9. Aidan O’Brien is going to win this race sooner or later!

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Saturday, November 27, 2021

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