The Curragh stages a true blockbuster of a meeting on Sunday and it could be a day to remember for trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore. They combine with three heavy favorites in the shape of Kyprios 2022 Irish St Leger, Aesop’s Fables (G1 National) and Meditate (G1 Moyglare Stud), while elsewhere the incredible Highfield Princess bids for her third G1 in a row in the Flying Five and La Petite Coco aims for back-to-back wins in the G2 Blandford.
Irish St Leger
Group 1, 500,000 euro, 1m 6f turf, 3yo+
The second day of Irish Champions Weekend moves the action to the Curragh, where the Irish St Leger, the final Classic race of the Irish campaign, takes centre stage on Sunday.
This year there is a dominant candidate in the shape of Kyprios, who is unbeaten in four starts this year and is certain to gain end-of-year honours as the champion stayer. The four-year-old was no more than a lightly raced, likely improver at the beginning of 2022, but hasn’t put a foot wrong and announced his arrival at the top table with a narrow but comfortable half-length victory in the G1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in June, over two and a half miles. Princess Zoe was sixth, beaten six and three-quarter lengths.
He built on that in the two-mile G1 Goodwood Cup in July when fighting all the way to the line to hold off veteran superstar Stradivarius by a neck, with Princess Zoe seventh, and the drop in distance today won’t be an issue, as his last start at a mile-and-six brought a 14-length victory in the G3 Levmoss at Leopardstown.
Kyprios stands head and shoulders over his rivals, who are led by Raise You, a winner over course and distance in last month’s G3 Irish St Leger Trial. He showed a fine change of pace for a stayer when quickening away to win by two lengths, taking the notable scalp of the mare Search For A Song, winner of the Irish St Leger in 2019 and 2020 but only sixth last year and on the downgrade now.
It’s hard to know whether, at the age of six, there’s much improvement in Raise You, which also goes for sole British raider Hamish, lightly raced in recent years but still on top of his game judged on his victory in the G3 Ormonde at Chester over an extended mile-five in May. He hasn’t been seen since but goes well fresh, and should further rain fall it would suit him very well.
The progressive filly Rosscarbery was a maiden on January 1 but is five-for-seven this year, and won at this distance in the G3 Stanerra at Leopardstown in July. She couldn’t catch the front-runner in the G1 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville last month, but that ten-furlong test didn’t play to her strengths and she’ll appreciate stretching out again.
Talented jumper Jason The Militant isn’t up to this level on the Flat judged on his third-place in a mile-and-a-half stakes at little Roscommon in June, but Camorra is worthy of respect after his upset win in the G2 Curragh Cup (not as grand as it sounds) over course and distance in June, with Manu Et Corde beaten nine and a half lengths into fifth.
However, Camorra had finished well behind both Kyprios and Raise You earlier in the year and has a mountain to climb to flip the form with the major players.
2022 Irish St Leger Betting Prediction
With two G1s in the bank on his last two starts KYPRIOS has a big class edge, and is expected to stretch his winning streak to five.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Jason The Militant||Ronan Whelan||+5000|
|Raise You||Shane Crosse||+400|
|Seattle Creek||Nathan Crosse||+20000|
|Princess Zoe||Joey Sheridan||+2500|
|Search For A Song||Chris Hayes||+1500|
|Manu Et Corde||Kevin Manning||+15000|
Vincent O’Brien National Stakes
Group 1, 400,000 euro, 7f turf, 2yo
Kyprios’s trainer Aidan O’Brien has another stand-out contender in the National, the premier juvenile colts’ race in Ireland and a contest he has won 11 times with star names such as Hawk Wing, George Washington and Gleneagles.
This time he puts most faith in Aesop’s Fables, unbeaten in two, a straightforward success over five and a half furlongs on debut in April followed by a much more commanding display in the G2 Futurity over course and distance last month.
He was caught a little napping when the pace quickened but the further they went the better he got, and he kept on in eye-catching style to lead well inside the final furlong and win going away by two and a quarter lengths from barnmate Hans Andersen, who had gone clear two furlongs out but had no answer to the winner’s irresistible late surge. The favourite Proud And Regal rallied after losing the lead and kept on for third, beaten a neck, and might be ready to stretch out to a mile now.
There is certainly more to come from Aesop’s Fables, who is likely one of the best two-year-olds in O’Brien’s powerful barn given that he has been chosen for duty in this prestigious race. On his previous start Hans Andersen had broken his maiden over course and distance when much too strong for the late-closing debutant Al Riffa, who improved the form when winning a similar contest next time out.
A bigger threat could be British raider Marbaan, who is riding a three-race winning streak culminating in an impressive success in the G2 Vintage over seven furlongs at Goodwood in July. He got up in the last few jumps – characteristic of the way jockey Jamie Spencer almost exclusively uses waiting tactics – to score by a half-length, and the third horse franked the form when winning a G3 in France next time out. It wasn’t the strongest G2 in the racebook, though.
The only one of this half-dozen with top-level form is Shartash, winner of the G2 Railway here over six furlongs – beating subsequent G1 winner Blackbeard, also trained by O’Brien – before finishing a well-beaten third in the G1 Phoenix over the same course and distance behind the magnificent Little Big Bear, currently the best of the O’Brien two-year-old battalion. The extra yardage should help him, as should any rain that falls.
Vincent O’Brien National Stakes Betting Pick
Unbeaten G2 winner AESOP’S FABLES was very impressive last time off a break and is the obvious choice to continue his rise.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Aesop’s Fables||Ryan Moore||-200|
|Al Riffa||Dylan Browne McMonagle||+1400|
|Hans Andersen||Seamus Heffernan||+600|
|Proud And Regal||Gavin Ryan||+650|
Moyglare Stud Stakes
Group 1, 400,000 euro, 7f turf, 2yo fillies
The equivalent event for two-year-old fillies is the Moyglare Stud, a win-and-in for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and a race in which Aidan O’Brien – bidding for a record tenth success in this contest, following wins for the likes of Minding and Love – has yet another heavy favourite, partnered like the other two by retained jockey Ryan Moore.
The horse in question is Meditate, who has risen flawlessly through the ranks to compile a four-race unbeaten streak. She excels in a front-running role, having made every yard to win the six-furlong G3 Albany at Royal Ascot in June from a subsequent G2 winner, and then pulled off the same trick over course and distance in the G2 Debutante last month.
She quickened clear there and had plenty in reserve to ward off a late challenge and win by three-quarters of a length, with the late-closing Thornbrook a neck away in third on just her second start and Gan Teorainn last of seven.
Thornbrook has scope for further improvement and should again give a good account, but it’s likely that Meditate has not reached her limit yet.
Her main market rival has a fraction of her experience but abundant promise, with Tahiyra coming off an impressive debut win at Galway over seven furlongs, when she pulled right away in the final furlong to score by five and a half lengths. She’s a half-sister to the top-class Tarnawa, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and a more precocious type, although of course the bridge from maiden level straight into G1 company is a demanding one.
Meditate’s stablemate Never Ending Story is already a G3 winner at this distance, in the Silver Flash at Leopardstown, but was a little disappointing when only third in the G2 Prix du Calvados at Deauville last time out. The French track was the scene for Sydneyarms Chelsea (named after a racing pub in London) to make her stakes breakthrough in the seven-furlong G3 Prix Six Perfections, winning by three-quarters of a length on softer ground that seemed to suit her, and which she’ll appreciate again today.
Course-and-distance winner Shelton stepped up to a mile here last time in the G3 Newtownanner Stud and appeared to relish the extra yardage, keeping on well in the closing stages to be runner-up to a 66-1 shock winner, beating the maiden Eternal Silence – owned by today’s race sponsor Moyglare Stud – by a head, with La Dolce Vita a well-beaten seventh.
The cutback may not be ideal, but Shelton is likely to be in the mix along with British raider Lakota Sioux, who ran a career-best when winning the G3 Sweet Solera at Newmarket last time. She still looked a little green but got the job done by three-quarters of a length and may improve again.
Moyglare Stud Stakes Betting Choice
She has improved with every outing and MEDITATE is expected to continue her upward trend and claim her first G1 success.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|Amazing Show||Collin Keane||+3300|
|Eternal Silence||Shane Foley||+3300|
|Gan Teorainn||Kevin Manning||+10000|
|La Dolce Vita||Gavin Ryan||+10000|
|Lakota Sioux||Richard Kingscote||+1200|
|Never Ending Story||Wayne Lordan||+1000|
|Sydneyarms Chelsea||Rob Hornby||+1200|
Flying Five Stakes
Group 1, 400,000 euro, 5f turf, 3yo+
With 19 runners, the Flying Five – a win-and-in for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint – is a wide-open contest full of horses who are capable of winning at this level but who peak and trough as the season progresses, consistency being an issue in this division. Except for one, that is.
The amazing British mare Highfield Princess, a true rags-to-riches, zero-to-hero sprinter, is at her lifetime peak with two G1 wins in her last two starts. Her versatility backs up her prowess – two runs ago she won the Prix Maurice de Gheest on softish ground over six and a half furlongs at Deauville, beating a subsequent G1 winner, and last time out she cruised to victory by two and a half lengths in the five-furlong Nunthorpe at York on fast turf, with Dragon Symbol fifth, Raasel eighth, Flotus tenth and New York City 12th.
She’s impossible to oppose on form, but this sort of race often goes to a horse coming into form rather than one with the best resume. Last year’s winner Romantic Proposal is a good example – twelve months ago she beat A Case Of You by half a length, with Dragon Symbol fourth, Gustavus Weston sixth and Mooneista 12th.
Next time out she was tenth behind A Case Of You in the G1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp; won a stakes on her first run of 2022 when beating Geocentric and Mooneista at Naas (pronounced ‘nace’), then ran tenth in the G1 July Cup at Newmarket. It’s hard to know what to expect from her today.
A Case Of You ran a rare poor race in the G1 Platinum Jubilee at Royal Ascot and is better judged on that half-length defeat in last year’s race, although he’s probably better at the six furlongs over which he won the G1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan in March.
Distaffers hold a strong hand, with Ladies Church running a career-best last time over course and distance in the G2 Sapphire, getting up as the camera clicked to nail Mooneista by a short head, with Castle Star fifth on his first start for ten months, Brostaigh sixth, Geocentric eighth and New York City last of ten.
Being only a three-year-old, Ladies Church is open to further improvement, while the same applies to Castle Star, who will be sharper with that comeback under his belt.
Another three-year-old on the up and up is Ebro River, winner of the six-furlong G1 Phoenix here last year and now back at the minimum trip for the first time in a dozen starts. He was back in the winner’s circle for the first time since that Phoenix score when winning a minor stakes at Chester in July, and perhaps the cutback will help him find the improvement he needs back up in class.
Fellow British raider Caturra is riding a six-race losing streak but probably ran a career-best when third in the G2 King George at Goodwood last time, and could be in the mix if in the same mood.
Flying Five Stakes Betting Pick
Highfield Princess will be hard to beat but a chance is taken that last year’s winner ROMANTIC PROPOSAL can go back-to-back.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|A Case Of You||Ronan Whelan||+1000|
|Dragon Symbol||Shane Foley||+1400|
|Gustavus Weston||Gary Carroll||+5000|
|The Highway Rat||Wayne Lordan||+6600|
|Castle Star||Jamie Spencer||+2000|
|Ebro River||Ben Curtis||+1600|
|New York City||Ryan Moore||+6600|
|Highfield Princess||Jason Hart||+150|
|Romantic Proposal||Chris Hayes||+600|
|Brostaigh||Dylan Browne McMonagle||+5000|
|Ladies Church||Ben Coen||+1000|
Group 2, 200,000 euro, 1m 2f turf, 3yo+ fillies/mares
The Blandford lacks the prestige of the other races on this stakes-heavy card but it is still blessed with the presence of one of Ireland’s most popular fillies, with La Petite Coco bidding to repeat her victory of 12 months ago.
That was the performance that really put the four-year-old on the map, when she made up considerable ground through the final furlong and put her nose in front right on the line to deny multiple G1 winner Love by a short head, with Insinuendo fourth, beaten three and a half lengths.
La Petite Coco looked as good as ever on her first start of 2022, making her G1 breakthrough in the Pretty Polly over course and distance when Lyrical Poetry was a well-beaten seventh, and it was only lack of stamina that found her out over a mile and a half in the G1 Yorkshire Oaks, when she faded into third inside the final furlong behind the high-class pair Alpinista and Tuesday. She will be a tough nut to crack back at her favourite distance.
The other G1 winner in the field is Above The Curve, a daughter of American Pharoah who has been off the track since that impressive success in the Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp in May. It wasn’t a particularly strong G1, but with only four runs under her belt she’s entitled to improve further if on her A-game after three and a half months off, and the easy ground will suit well.
She is one of four runners trained by Joseph O’Brien, Aidan’s eldest son, with second-string Didn’thavemuchtodo also worthy of consideration after finishing runner-up, beaten just a neck, on her stakes debut at Gowran Park last month, with Lyrical Poetry favourite but only fourth and West Coast ninth.
Then there’s her stablemate Seisai, who is riding an eight-race losing streak and was well below par last time, but holds claims on the evidence of her previous start when beaten only a half-length in the G2 Kilboy Estate here over a mile-eighth, with One For Bobby three-quarters of a length behind her in third, Rumbles Of Thunder a length and a quarter away in fourth, and Galleria Borghese four lengths further away in sixth.
Next time out Rumbles Of Thunder did her bit for the form when a comfortable winner of the G3 Give Thanks at Cork over a mile and a half, and she’d be a big threat if able to repeat that sort of performance at this shorter distance.
Sunset Shiraz was third in the G1 Moyglare Stud 12 months ago, but is coming here off an 11-month break and has never won anything better than a maiden.
Blandford Stakes Betting Choice
Last year’s winner LA PETITE COCO was beaten at a mile and a half in a G1 last time and can bounce back down in distance and class.
|HORSE||JOCKEY||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|La Petite Coco||Billy Lee||+120|
|Emphatic Answer||Dylan Browne McMonagle||+2800|
|Rumbles Of Thunder||Shane Foley||+750|
|Above The Curve||Ryan Moore||+400|
|Galleria Borghese||Seamus Heffernan||+3300|
|Lyrical Poetry||Chris Hayes||+1800|
|One For Bobby||Ben Coen||+2000|
|Sunset Shiraz||Gary Carroll||+2500|
|West Coast||Emmet McNamara||+6600|
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