WIND OP, QUICKER GROUND AND DROP IN TRIP CAN PROVE A MAGIC COMBINATION FOR SAINT
Aloysius Lilius backed up a good run at Navan with an eyecatching performance at Dundalk. The early stages of the race didn’t go to plan as he got badly bumped at the start which resulted in him dropping to last and he was still there turning into the straight. He made headway to be just behind the leading line a furlong out but couldn’t put in a significant challenge and came home in seventh, beaten two lengths. Considering what happened at the start this was a fine effort and I think a win off his current mark of 66 is within his reach over the winter at Dundalk.
Irish Ambassador was another runner on the card at Dundalk whose chance was negatively affected by what happened at the start. In this case it was his own making as he was very awkwardly away which left him a few lengths off the back of the field in the early stages. He latched on to the back of the field at the start of the back straight and was still there turning into the home straight, tracking the eventual runner up Magi Gal. Moved towards the inside rail, Irish Ambassador started to make headway until hands and heels and was only about a length off the leader a furlong out before the effort of making up that ground took its toll and he finished four lengths behind the winner, Spelga, in sixth. This was a more encouraging run from Irish Ambassador, albeit off a lowly mark, after two poor runs and suggested that he could be better than his rating of 48. I think he will be equally effective over a mile as over this trip of 1m2½f at Dundalk and hopefully the issue at the start turns out to be a one-off.
The theme so far of ground loss at the start continues with Zoran who shaped with promise on his debut at Lingfield over a mile. Slowly away and showing clear signs of greenness in the first half of the race, he was in third last turning the final bend. He looked a little ill at ease on the bend as he was asked for his effort and was about eight lengths behind the leader with two furlongs to go. He responded well to pressure while still showing his inexperience and closed strongly late on to only be beaten two and a half lengths in seventh. Physically he looks the type to progress well at three and I’m hopeful that he can do well over 1m2f-1m4f next year.
Towards the end of Magic Saint’s time in France, early promise had been replaced by finding far less than looked likely under pressure, suggesting a possible wind issue, and on his final outing he was a blatant non-stayer over 2m6f. Last season in Britain his performances on the track failed to match the talk that went with him but it was notable how strongly he travelled in the Grand Annual until finding less under pressure than looked likely after 3 out. A wind op duly occurred in the summer and he was stepped back up in trip for his return to the track in the BetVictor Gold Cup. Once again, he travelled well for a long way but had little left to offer just before turning into the straight and he finished fifth beaten sixteen lengths. It may be that he is just a weak finisher but I thought the evidence beforehand pointed to this trip being likely to stretch him, particularly on the soft ground, and a drop back to 2m will see him in a better light. On the subject of the ground, it is worth noting that the ground for his two wins over hurdles in France was much quicker than the official descriptions and that he looked at home on good ground at Wincanton so it could be that keeping him away from soft ground may help too. He also wore a tongue tie in France but that was worn since his debut and with some trainers it’s an automatic action so it’s an unknown as to whether the reapplication of one now would help him at all. It may turn out that he will never produce on the track what he shows in his work but now that he’s had a wind op, I think a return to a shorter trip on quicker ground will give him the best chance of doing so.
Milkwood was an impressive winner on hurdling debut at Hereford last month and shaped well again at Wetherby in a race where the pace and soft ground played against him. Held up in last off a very slow pace, he was still travelling strongly turning into the straight and only about two and a half lengths behind the leader. It was at this point that Miah Grace and Big Bad Bear started to quicken and Milkwood still hadn’t been asked for his effort when he got in a bit close at 3 out. Only nudged along after, he repeated the trick at 2 out and under more pressure, couldn’t get any closer to the front pair after, coming home six and a half lengths behind the winner in third. He’s been given a rating of 127 and with a return to much quicker ground in a race run at a stronger pace, I think he can be successful off that mark.
Harry Dunlop has had some successful trips to France and this French-bred may give him the opportunity of more after a promising debut at Wolverhampton. Pride Of America travelled well through the race and started to make headway turning the final bend. Charlie Bishop initially went to switch him into a gap towards the inside but Batalha hung left into his path and he had to switch back outside again. He couldn’t get a clear run until very late and even then Favorite Moon edged left and tightened him up slightly. Only beaten one and a half lengths in fourth, I think he would have at least gone close to winning with an untroubled path in the straight. A half brother to the 100-rated Deja, I think he will be best over distances around 1m2f next year and gives Dunlop the option of targeting the attractive prize money and premiums in France.
After a 577-day absence, Dame De Compagnie returned in the Greatwood with a performance that suggested she still retains the ability that she showed as a novice. She raced keenly through the early stages of the race and tracked the leaders until losing her place slightly at the top of the hill. She was only briefly nudged along on the run down the hill and then got in close at 2 out. Pushed along more vigorously after, she took a while to respond but after shifting left at the last, she ran on strongly up the hill to finish fifth. A winner at Cheltenham over 2m4½f as a novice, a return to a longer trip looks certain to suit and she can show herself to be better than her rating of 132, perhaps in a race like the Lanzarote.
A Great View was another JP McManus owned horse to catch the eye on Sunday returning after a break over an inadequate distance. Held up for much of the race, he made some headway shortly after leaving the back straight but was then outpaced and looked likely to drop away turning the final bend. However, under hands and heels he responded well and ran on very strongly after the last to only be beaten 3¾ lengths in fourth. Over a distance that is clearly much shorter than ideal this was an encouraging comeback. He wore cheekpieces in his previous four runs over hurdles and it may be that the reapplication of those, along with a return to 3m, will see him be successful off his now 1lb higher mark of 136 in the not too distant future.