BIG RACE PREVIEW: A quartet go to post at Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes with St Mark’s Basilica heading the betting.
A small but very select field for the Irish Champion Stakes. The starting point has to be St Mark’s Basilica as he has looked as good a ten furlong three-year-old as there is in Europe right now. His victories in the French Guineas, French Derby and Eclipse Stakes mark him out as a horse right out of the top drawer and there is no introduction needed whatsoever for his connections! The fact that they rely on just the one horse for such a prestigious race speaks volumes about the faith they have in this horse. However there is one small nagging doubt about his victory in the Eclipse at Sandown. The time of the race was slow and it is questionable whether both Addeybb and Mishriff (second and third) were at concert pitch on the day. In fact subsequent events suggest that Mishriff clearly wasn’t at his best at Sandown. However that shouldn’t detract too much from the performance of St Mark’s Basilica who could do no more than rout the opposition and he is clearly the one to beat here.
That said he faces stiff opposition here in the shape of Poetic Flare and Tarnawa. Poetic Flare is most certainly the best three-year-old mile horse in Europe right now however it has also become obvious that he bounces off fast ground. He hasn’t encountered those conditions since he blitzed the field in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and a subsequent defeat in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood was definitely down to the ground. There is also a feeling that Palace Pier perhaps got first run on Poetic Flare in the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville in mid-August and he can count himself a little unlucky that he didn’t regain the winning thread there. His pedigree offers up some hope that he will stay this ten furlong trip however he would likely need the ground to be very quick in order to maximise his chances of staying the extended trip and with this being unlikely there is just the feeling that the extra two furlongs may find him out.
Contrast this to Tarnawa who we know stays twelve furlongs very well and she could definitely be the horse to put it up to the favourite. She improved out of all recognition at the end of last season with victories in the Prix de l’Opera and the Breeders Cup Turf rounding out an unbeaten four-year-old campaign. She came back as good as ever here at Leopardstown five weeks ago where she breezed to a facile success in the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes over twelve furlongs. She drops back to ten furlongs for this race and it shouldn’t inconvenience her too much. Said to have strengthened up again during the winter that was certainly the impression she created on her return to action and she is put up as a sporting selection to take this before setting her sights on the Arc at Longchamp early next month.
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