Donn's Articles » More Power to the Irish

More Power to the Irish

It rained in Dublin last night. Heavily. So heavily that, if the King’s Stand Stakes was going to be run tomorrow at Leoaprdstown tomorrow – notwithstanding the fact that you would need to dig up the M50 again to re-instate the five-furlong track – they would probably be running it on yielding ground, yielding to soft in places.

Fortunately for Sole Power and Eddie Lynam, the King’s Stand Stakes is going to be run at Royal Ascot tomorrow, and Chris Stickels says that the light showers that fell overnight combined to fill no more than 1mm of the gauge. 1mm would just about get up in a three-way photo from condensation and dew.

Lynam will be watching the weather and the watering machinery, that’s for sure. Sole Power can’t have it fast enough. Viztoria, who is on track for the Coronation Stakes on Friday, can’t really have it soft enough. Stone-splitting sun today and tomorrow followed by a deluge at some stage before the Coronation Stakes on Friday – something like the one that smothered Berkshire before the same Coronation Stakes in 2007, when Indian Ink danced through the mud – would do very nicely, thanks very much.

Sole Power has a real chance in the King’s Stand tomorrow, a better chance than odds of 10/1 suggest. Admittedly, it is difficult to see how he is going to reverse defeats of two and a half lengths (twice) with South African rock star Shea Shea from Dubai in March. Mike de Kock’s gelding looks like a bit of a sprinting monster, and if he shows up in the same track-record breaking form, then any deeper analysis could be a wasted exercise.

Straws at which to clutch? Meydan and Ascot are different, different styles of track, different times of year, different surfaces. Shea Shea has never raced at Ascot. Also, he hasn’t raced in two and a half months, and he was well beaten on his debut at Meydan in January after a break of nine months.

If Shea Shea does under-perform, Sole Power is the most likely beneficiary. He is a continually under-rated sprinter, but he is top class when he has his conditions: five furlongs, fast ground, fast pace.

He was third in the King’s Stand Stakes last year on ground that was softer than ideal and when he didn’t have the run of the race. He raced towards the near side that day as the race developed away from him on the far side, and Johnny Murtagh had to use him up earlier than ideal, hit the front on the near side before moving over to challenge Little Bridge and Bated Breath on the far side. As it was, he came up a length and three-quarters short, but there was no disgrace in that.

As well as proving that he can operate on ground that isn’t lightning fast, that run also laid the Ascot ghost to rest, which was important, given that he had disappointed in two previous runs there.

You have to forgive him his most recent run in the Temple Stakes at Haydock, and he has ground to make up on Kingsgate Native, Swiss Spirit and Reckless Abandon on that run, but you easily can, as he raced too close to the pace that day. He is a horse who is at his best when he is coiled through a race and released with one lung-bursting effort. Regular rider Johnny Murtagh is back on board tomorrow, and Johnny is a master at implementing those tactics.

He is drawn away from Shea Shea, but he is right next door to Reckless Abandon, who likes to get on with things, so there should be plenty of pace for him to chase. Clive Cox’s horse is a danger. He could lead all the way. Last year’s Norfolk Stakes winner, he is obviously proven at the track, he ran a cracker in the Temple Stakes under his 3lb penalty, and three-year-olds have a good record in the King’s Stand. However at 10/1, Sole Power looks a fair bit over-priced.

It could be a cracking day for Ireland tomorrow, with a strong team anchored by Aidan O’Brien, represented in five of the six races. Declaration Of War bids to put his disappointing Lockinge Stakes run behind him in the Queen Anne Stakes, and build on the potential that he has shown since his arrival from France. An easy winner of a listed race at Leopardstown on his penultimate run, he has to go and do it now, and Animal Kingdom sets a ridiculously high standard, but the weight of money that sent the War Front colt off the 5/4 favourite for the Lockinge tells you how highly regarded he is by people who know about these things. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him run a huge race.

Stubbs is a worthy favourite for the Coventry Stakes, a race that Aidan O’Brien has won six times since 1997. The Danehill Dancer colt was impressive in winning a listed race at Naas two weeks ago, a race from which the third horse has since come out and won well. His draw in stall one might not be ideal, however, and there may not be that much between him and his stable companion Sir John Hawkins, a son of the top class Peeping Fawn and a nice winner on his sole start to date.

However, it is the clash between Dawn Approach and Magician in the St James’s Palace Stakes that could light up Day One. This is a big opportunity for Dawn Approach to re-impose his authority on the season, confine Epsom’s horror show to the archives and pick up the upward curve again.

It is easy to see him bounce back too. Unlike some other high-profile Derby failures in the past, he didn’t have a hard race physically at Epsom. Kevin Manning was astute and experienced enough to drop hands once his winning chance had obviously gone, allow him amble through the final two and a half furlongs, indifferent to the fact that a 33-length defeat would go on his record, save him for the next day.

Of course, you can’t know for sure what effect the Derby had on the horse mentally, but Jim Bolger says that he is well and still awesome, and you can be sure that he wouldn’t allow him travel if he didn’t think that the colt was up for it. He is back over what is probably his optimum trip and, this time, unlike in the Derby, he will have Leitir Mor – who gained a second deserved Group 3 win at Leopardstown on Thursday – for company. That could be key.

It is testament to the strange twists and turns that this game can take that, no more than 24 hours after Dawn Approach had been confirmed as an intended runner in tomorrow’s race, a slight doubt arose about Magician’s participation. As with Dawn Approach, you can be certain that the Ballydoyle colt wouldn’t be running if Aidan O’Brien wasn’t happy that he was fully primed.

You can do without these setbacks, ideally you want a smooth run into these championship races, but the Dee Stakes winner looked like another top class miler in winning the Irish 2000 Guineas and, as long as he takes his chance, this could be the race of the week.

Get ready for fireworks.

©, 17th June 2013