It was a case of like father like son in the Irish Derby on Saturday as Joseph O’Brien trained his first classic winner and it will surely be the first of many. However, Joseph’s next winner may come in the Kevin McManus Bookmaker Grimes Hurdle on Thursday, where he has four of the early entries in the colours of JP McManus.
Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of high-class flat racing action to look forward this week. Sandown starts its two-day Coral Eclipse meeting on Friday, when the highlights are the Dragon Stakes and the Gala Stakes. The Eclipse Stakes then takes place on Saturday with Derby first and third Masar and Roaring Lion set to do battle for the third time this season.
The other highlight on Sandown’s Saturday card is the Coral Charge. Meanwhile, Haydock also hosts some decent action on Saturday on a card that includes the Lancashire Oaks and the Old Newton Cup Handicap.
Tipperary (Thursday 5 July)
Kevin McManus Bookmaker Grimes Hurdle
This Grade 3 Hurdle is named after the first winner of the race Grimes in 2001. That horse was owned by JP McManus who has won the race one more than one occasion since with the likes of Captain Cee Bee and last year’s winner Plinth. Trainer Willie Mullins has also enjoyed plenty of recent success in the race, scoring a hat-trick between 2014 – 2016 with Simenon, Diakali, and Ivan Grozny. The race takes place over two-miles. JP Mcmanus has five early entries in the race in last year’s winner Plinth, Tigris River, Don’t Touch It, Ivanovich Gorbatov, and Slow Motion, four of which are trained by Irish Derby winning trainer Joseph O’Brien. Meanwhile, Willie Mullins has four possible entries to call upon in Wicklow Brave, Sharjah, Voix Du Reve, and Asthuria.
Sandown (Friday 6 July)
Dragon Stakes (2.25)
The Dragon Stakes is a Listed Race for 2-year-olds that is run over 5-furlongs. It was first run in 1992 and its most notable winners include Zebedee, Havana Grey, and The Last Lion. Mark Johnston has won two of the last three renewals and has a trio of early entries in Chappelli, Pink Flamingo, and Prairie Spy.
However, last year’s winning trainer Karl Burke is looking to follow-up last year’s win with Havana Grey with three possible entries of his own in Havana Ooh Na Na, Life Of Riley, and Collect Call. Meanwhile, 2014 winning trainer Richard Hannon has booked Ryan Moore to ride Well Done Fox, whilst 2013 winning trainer Mick Channon could call upon Barbill and Jungle Inthebungle.
Davies Insurance Services Gala Stakes (3.30)
The Gala Stakes was first run in 2003 and this Listed race is currently run over a trip of 1 mile 1 furlong and 209 yards. It is open to horses aged three and older, though no horse from the classic generation has won since 2007. Notable winners include Ikhtyar, David Junior, Kirklees, Mandour, Ayrad, and Spark Plug. Dual-winning trainer Brian Meehan could allow Spark Plug to try and win back-to-back renewals, though Ryan Moore looks to have jumped ship to ride Eugenio for Richard Hannon. However, the highest-rated horse in the entries is Mustashry for Sir Michael Stoute, and Stoute last saddled the 2011 winner. Another potentially interesting runner is Ajman Bridge, with Roger Varian’s four-year-old having won his last four races.
Haydock Saturday (7 July)
Lancashire Oaks (1.10)
The Lancashire Oaks is a Group 2 Race for fillies and mares aged three or older that was first run in 1939 and was moved to its present home of Haydock in 1965. It is run over a distance of 1 mile 3 furlongs and 175 yards. Its most notable winners of the race include Allegretto, Barshiba, and Great Heavens. Trainer John Gosden has a fantastic record in the race and is the joint leading trainer with seven wins. He’s also won four of the last seven renewals. This year, he looks set to be represented by Precious Ramotswe, a lightly-raced four-year-old that has won four of her five starts. Those wins have earned her a mark of 100, which means she has something to find with the likes of the 105-rated God Given, who is also two from two over course and distance.
Old Newton Cup (1.45)
The Old Newton Cup is a class 2 handicap that carries a first prize of £62,250. Therefore, it’s no surprise that there are many decent horses plotted at the race. The race is run over the same distance as the Lancashire Oaks and is open to horses aged four and older. Four-year-olds have won seven of the last 10 renewals, whilst winners have carried between 8-8 and 9-10.
Meanwhile, three trainers have won the race twice in the last 10 years. Marco Botti has trained two of the last four winners and is set to be represented by his sole entry Crowned eagle, whilst Clive Cox also has just one entry in Now Children. However, Mark Johnston has four possible entries as bids for a third winner of the race. Those entries are Aclimatise, Rainbow Rebel, Sofia’s Rock, and Titi Makfi.
Sandown (Saturday 7 July)
Coral Charge (12.20)
The Coral Charge is a Group 3 Race that is run over 5 furlongs and 10 yards. It is open to sprinters aged three and older and was won last year in by the brilliant Battaash. He’s not the only winner of this race that has gone onto establish himself as a top-class sprinter though and it has been used as a stepping stone by the likes of Lochsong, Ya Malak, and Brando. There doesn’t look to be a sprinter of that calibre in this year’s line-up, though last year’s winning owner will be hopeful of enjoying another victory with the top-rated Muthmir. He may face his biggest challenge from Judicial, if that one can build on his confidence-boosting win last time.
Coral Eclipse Stakes (2.10)
The Eclipse Stakes has one of the most breath-taking roles of honour of any horse race. It’s been won by the likes of Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Ela Mana Mou, Saddlers Wells, Pebbles, Dancing Brave, Mtoto, Nashwan, Kooyonga, Opera House, Ezzoud, Halling, Pilsudski, Daylami, Giants Causeway, Hawk Wing, See The Stars, Nathaniel, and Golden Horn. Run over the intermediate trip of 10-furlongs, it was designed to bring together milers and mile-and-a-half horses from the classic generation.
It is also the first Group 1 test of the season in which the three-year-olds take on the older horses. The three-year-olds receive a generous 12lb from their elders at this stage of the season, but only three have been successful in the last decade. Those winners included Golden Horn and Sea The Stars, who had both won The Derby on their previous start.
This year’s Derby Masar looks sure to take his chance after side-stepping the Irish Derby and he could be re-opposed by The Derby third Roaring Lion who has earlier looked classy when winning The Dante Stakes over this trip. Whilst the jury is still out on how good this year’s three-year-olds are, it will be disappointing if exposed older horses like Hawkbill, Forest Ranger, or Cliffs Of Moher can beat them. Therefore, as Masar finished well-ahead of Roaring Lion in both the 2,000 Guineas and The Derby, it’s hard to see why he shouldn’t finish in front of John Gosden’s horse again.