Racing: Dylan and Fallon can bring Ouija to earth

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The Independent Online

The journey from heart to breast pocket is a short but dangerous one in betting. However short the odds, many wallets will be unfastened today as an instinctive gesture of allegiance to Ouija Board, the mare who makes her own commitments with such epic sincerity.

Her exploits around the world had already won over all but the most flint-hearted, even before that spine-tingling duel on home soil at Goodwood last month. Her rematch with Alexander Goldrun in the Baileys Irish Champion Stakes today would top the bill even if the Ladbrokes St Leger, the final British Classic, had mustered a field better qualified to defend its fragile legacy.

As it is, public sentiment will instead be reserved for a horse, rather than a race. Ouija Board will draw all eyes to Leopardstown, though when it comes to a bet her devoted followers would be well advised to keep theirs wide open. Certainly it is difficult to fathom why the two mares, a sliver apart at Goodwood, should be divided by a relative abyss in the betting. Ouija Board is as short as 7-4, whereas you can get 7-2 against Alexander Goldrun.

Unquestionably the Irish mare is better value, not least because the hard race they gave each other will be more likely to deplete the reserves of Ouija Board. The Nassau Stakes was her sixth consecutive Group One examination since the spring, the first two of which took her to Dubai and Hong Kong. She had a very tiring race on her return, against Shirocco in the Coronation Cup, before beating the colts at Royal Ascot and then getting tangled up at Sandown. In the circumstances, if she happened to disappoint today, it would not take anyone very long to explain why.

Alexander Goldrun, in contrast, had come freshly back to the boil for Goodwood. She proved herself at home over course and distance when beaten under a length by Oratorio and Motivator in this race last year, despite meeting traffic.

Of course, it could prove that their best would not be good enough for either of these mares. Dylan Thomas ran deplorably at York, but may deserve exoneration. The dead ground was not to his taste, and he squandered energy refusing to settle. Aidan O'Brien felt that he was too fresh, having been given a break since his spectacular win in the Irish Derby, and perhaps the race only thrust itself on his agenda by opening up invitingly.

The three-year-olds in general have been written off rather hastily, few of the best having been meaningfully tested against their seniors. Back on faster ground, and unbeaten under Kieren Fallon, Dylan Thomas (3.55) can confirm the stunning impression he made at the Curragh.

Finishing second to Dylan Thomas at Leopardstown in the spring is the best performance this year by Mountain, one of O'Brien's four runners in the St Leger. The stable seem to have better prospects of a fourth success in six runnings with Tusculum, a late developer who has been well backed since relishing a step up to this distance at the Curragh.

They all have their work cut out against Sixties Icon, who was pitched into the deep end after winning his maiden in the spring but appears to have grown up quickly as a result. Midfield in the Derby, he looked ready for this distance when a fine third to Papal Bull and Red Rocks at Royal Ascot. But his coming of age came at Goodwood, where he made some obdurate rivals look very wispy indeed. By a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner, Sixties Icon (3.45) is abundantly qualified to anoint his top-class trainer with a first British Classic.

With doubts about the stamina of Red Rocks, the value alternative may be 33-1 about Galient, who can be forgiven his failure at Newbury last time.

Quibbles about the calibre of the St Leger field cannot extend to the rest of the card. The Champagne Stakes looks up to scratch, with O'Brien sending over one of his best juveniles, Eagle Mountain, to meet some fascinating prospects - none more so than Thousand Words (2.35), a colt to be followed until beaten.

The indefatigable Quito is out again in the Park Stakes, but he has never beaten a colt as classy as Iffraaj (3.10) who should win so long as the ground continues to dry out.

Hogmangeigh may stay a step ahead of the handicapper in the Portland Handicap, but blinkers and a return to five furlongs may see things fall in line for King Orchisios (next best 2.05).

Chris McGrath

Nap: Dahman (Bath 3.20)

NB: King Orchisios (York 2.05)