Ruby Walsh: With doubts over leading fancies, Mohican Heights can profit at Epsom

This afternoon the Derby and Oaks at Epsom take centre stage before tomorrow at Chantilly the French equivalents clash with the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
Ruby Walsh: With doubts over leading fancies, Mohican Heights can profit at Epsom
The Epsom showpieces on the same afternoon in early July is certainly a first but the standard of the contests are as normal, albeit with winners of different trial and Group race winners taking on the Guineas hero and heroine, writes Ruby Walsh.
The Epsom showpieces on the same afternoon in early July is certainly a first but the standard of the contests are as normal, albeit with winners of different trial and Group race winners taking on the Guineas hero and heroine, writes Ruby Walsh.

This afternoon the Derby and Oaks at Epsom take centre stage before tomorrow at Chantilly the French equivalents clash with the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.

That is five top-notch Group 1 races to keep the steady flow of high-end Flat racing tipping along.

The Epsom showpieces on the same afternoon in early July is certainly a first but the standard of the contests are as normal, albeit with winners of different trial and Group race winners taking on the Guineas hero and heroine.

Kameko won the 2000 Guineas but, on pedigree, his stamina looks suspect.

Mogul has been the Ballydoyle talking horse all winter but his form to date on the racecourse is not good enough and he also has to overcome a poor draw in stall two.

English King is favourite on the back of a good effort in the Lingfield Derby Trial. Frankie Dettori takes over on Ed Walker’s colt but, from stall one, his price is pretty skimpy.

Both Frankie and Ryan Moore face big tactical calls in the first 20 yards to try and overcome poor starting positions on Epsom’s switch-back left-handed loop.

Vatican City is from a family of milers, Russian Emperor is having his third run in 25 days, and Pyledriver had a fitness edge over his rivals in the King Edward Stakes.

My each-way fancy is David Simcock’s Mohican Heights, a steady improver who was in front of Mogul at Ascot and yet is four times his price.

In the Oaks, the main dangers to Newmarket 1000 Guineas winner Love come from the Ribblesdale at Ascot, but the fourth filly there, Bharani Star, makes me question the strength of that race so Love, a sister to Flattering and Peach Tree, is the most likely winner.

Enable will bid to kick off her six-year-old and fifth season in training with a win in tomorrow’s Eclipse. I have no doubt she is the best horse in the line-up but, without a run this season and taking on match-fit rivals like Ghaiyyath, Japan, and Magic Wand, it won’t be a stroll in the park as it was for Magical last Sunday.

For me, the Eclipse is a race to watch.

At Chantilly, another Derby favourite will bid to overcome a worrying draw.

Victor Ludorum, like English King at Epsom, is in stall one. It is not an impossible task but it is an awkward one.

However, I loved him when I watched him winning the French 2000 Guineas at Deauville and think the step up to 10 furlongs will suit him perfectly.

Donnacha O’Brien could become the third member of his family to train a Group 1 winner when Fancy Blue contests the Prix de Diane.

With the brilliant Pierre-Charles Boudot aboard, she will bid to reverse Irish Guineas placings with Seamie Heffernan’s mount Peaceful, and the extra two furlongs and 110 yards may just make that happen.

***

So, what did you notice last week?

If you’re are racing fan, you definitely saw Santiago and Magical last weekend winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and the Pretty Polly Stakes respectively, but you probably also saw Narynkol at the Curragh eight days ago, and The Shunter at Tipperary on Wednesday.

Both horse and connections were fined and suspended under rules in place to stop the racecourse being used as a training ground and to ensure people make sufficient effort and obtain their best possible finishing positions.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) stewards definitely noticed both and handed out a total of €9,000 in trainer fines, the riders got 12 and 21-day bans, and the horses are barred from running for 50 and 60 days respectively.

Narynkol’s connections do not agree with the Curragh stewards and have lodged an appeal which will be heard on Monday.

As that case is still ongoing, I cannot comment or speculate on that for now.

Some might argue The Shunter penalties are not nearly enough, and perhaps they are right, but I would have made one change had I been in the Tipperary stewards’ room last Wednesday afternoon.

The Shunter would have received a ban of six months and a 10lb rise in his handicap ratings. Not that the horse knew or did anything wrong, but the act was committed using him, so that is where the punishment should hit hardest: A three-month holiday and three more in prep for a return to the track.

Twenty-one days for The Shunter’s jockey, Brian Hayes, is just over four weeks off and means he misses the Galway Festival but he probably misses the best part of 50 rides and three or four winners to boot.

Conservatively, that is more like a €9,000 fine for him.

A €6,000 fine for Emmett Mullins plus the loss in training fees if The Shunter got six months would have done him too.

Since horse racing first begun, keeping everyone on the straight and narrow has always proven difficult, so a major deterrent is required.

If any owner thinks he, she, or their horse has been used in an incorrect manner by a jockey or trainer they have the choice to move their horse on or not use the rider anymore.

However, if any owner is also involved in such an act, 60 days without being able to run, when you think the normal turnaround time between races is 21 days, doesn’t exactly scream the punishment fits the crime.

In theory, that’s only 39 days in limbo, so only a €1950 fine, if taken at a high average of the cost per day of National Hunt training fees.

You win together, you lose together, you share the burden of a crime together.

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