The classy four-year-old, a dual Group 1 winner over a mile last season, showed his liking for ten furlongs when catching Twice Over and Byword close home in the recent Juddmonte International at York last time.
And, with a strong pace guaranteed in today’s feature, the Galileo colt must be strongly fancied to become the fourth successful odds-on favourite in a row to land Ireland’s premier all-age, middle-distance prize.
Winner of the Sussex Stakes and ‘QE II’ last year, Rip Van Winkle disappointed on his seasonal debut in the Queen Anne and improved dramatically on that effort when a fine second to Canford Cliffs in the Sussex at Goodwood.
And, last month, the extra distance of the Juddmonte International played to the Ballydoyle colts’ strengths as he came from well off the pace to catch Twice Over close home and beat him a half-length.
Aidan O’Brien has made no secret of the fact that ‘Rip’ was being prepared for an autumn campaign. So further improvement is expected from him today.
Likely to be ridden closer to the pace, Rip Van Winkle should register his fourth Group 1 win, at the probable expense of his York victim Twice Over which ended last season by winning the Champion Stakes in Newmarket before finishing third to Zenyatta in the Breeders Cup Classic in Santa Anita.
Joining Rip Van Winkle in the line-up will be two stable-companions, Cape Blanco, no match for the ultra-impressive Harbinger in the King George after winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, and Beethoven, which is expected to force the early pace.
Although unbeaten in three starts at Leopardstown this season, the Dermot Weld-trained Famous Name faces a tough task on unfavourably fast ground while Mark Johnston’s supplementary entry Sea Lord is stepping-up from a Group 3 win in Salisbury last time and tackling a mile and a quarter for the first time.
Earlier, the James Fanshawe-trained Spacious might be capable of making her Group 1 breakthrough in the Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes, which could develop into a tactical affair.
Beaten two lengths by likely favourite Music Show in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes in Newmaraket last time, Kieran Fallon’s mount might be afforded an easy lead this time, unlike the Newmarket race and is 4lb. better off with Mick Channon’s filly, which will be ridden today by Fran Berry.
Five-year-old Spacious is the only older filly in the field. Her three-year-old rivals will also include Bethrah, unraced since her last-gasp Irish 1,000 Guineas back in May, and Aidan O’Brien’s Coronation Stakes winner Lillie Langtry, a big disappointment in the Falmouth.