Stars leads Champion market despite uncertainty

DESPITE the continued uncertainty over the participation of Sea The Stars in Saturday’s Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes, William Hill have installed him as their 10-11 favourite.

John Oxx’s brilliant colt had looked doubtful to even be declared on Wednesday, but an improvement in the weather forecast and the fact the management at Leopardstown will be using two separate tracks has eased fears slightly.

The 2000 Guineas, Derby, Eclipse and Juddmonte International winner was among nine declarations on Thursday despite 22 millimetres of rain falling at the track during Wednesday.

The going eased to yielding to soft, soft in places but with only showers forecast and a strong breeze anticipated, Irish racegoers have their fingers crossed they will get to see their champion at least once this season.

In a statement issued from his Currabeg stables, Oxx said: “I have declared Sea The Stars to run, even though the going at the moment is too soft for him.

“He would not race today or tomorrow but, given the forecast for good drying conditions between now and race time, I have no option but to leave him in the race to give him every opportunity to run should conditions improve significantly.

“If there are further heavy showers in the meantime, they will ruin all chance of him racing.

“But if the showers avoid Leopardstown, we will delay a final decision until midday on Saturday.”

Aidan O’Brien, who has so often had to give best to the colt this year, has declared five of the nine runners, with Mastercraftsman (Seamie Heffernan) still among them, although he is also entered in Sunday’s Prix du Moulin over a mile.

Fame And Glory (Johnny Murtagh) is believed to be Ballydoyle’s best hope of lowering Sea The Stars’ colours and William Hill’s Tony Kenny believes he would be a very short price if Oxx decided to skip the race with his colt.

“Sea The Stars’ participation looks like it’s in the hands of the gods at the moment. The weather here in Dublin is expected to be variable over the next few days and we’re all keeping our fingers crossed we can avoid some of the heavy showers,” said Kenny.

“Irish people love their horse racing and it would be a real shame if we didn’t get to see this true Irish equine superstar in the flesh.

“Sea The Stars is obviously a worthy favourite and if he does turn up on the day, then he’ll probably go off shorter than his current odds of 10-11.

“However, should he miss the race, then Fame And Glory will probably be sent off no bigger than 4-9 or 2-5.”

Despite all the rain to have hit the course, Leopardstown general manager Tom Burke is pleasantly surprised by the condition of the racing surface.

He said: “I think it will have dried up slightly today.

“We’ve had one light shower but this morning it was good drying conditions.

“We had a lucky escape earlier when apparently only two miles away they had a very heavy shower but we missed all of that.

“The forecast is for a risk of showers but they are less likely by tomorrow and it is to be very breezy which is always a help.

“I spoke to John and we are very glad he’s declared the horse.

“His participation obviously hinges on the weather over the next few days and we sincerely hope it works in our favour.

“He hasn’t run in Ireland yet this season so everybody is looking forward to it, it looks like being a super race.

“Similar to last year and in light of the weather conditions yesterday, we have decided to set up two separate tracks for Saturday to ensure that we have the best possible ground conditions for the Group One races.”

Grand Ducal, Set Sail and Rockhampton are the other Coolmore runners while Dermot Weld’s Casual Conquest, Charles O’Brien’s Lord Admiral and the Tracey Collins-trained Loch Long complete the list.

Tattersalls Million Irish Champion Stakes, William Hill bet: 10-11 Sea The Stars, 6-4 Fame And Glory, 6-1 Mastercraftsman, 12-1 Casual Conquest, 33-1 Grand Ducal, 40-1 Lord Admiral, 100-1 Loch Long, 150-1 Rockhampton, Set Sail.

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