Chris McGrath: Banimpire can lead the Dancing in Irish Oaks
Saturday 16 July 2011
A week ago, everyone was grumbling that the transfer of the July Cup from its traditional weekday slot had produced too rich a diet of Saturday racing. Sure enough, today they are complaining that the gruel is too thin.
There's no pleasing some people. But then that, in more ways than one, is a besetting vice of the Turf.
The real mystery, as has been rightly observed, is why the Sunday programme in this country remains such a wretchedly everyday affair. Otherwise the only real objections last Saturday, when the feature race would ordinarily have been a handicap at York, came from those who suddenly discovered that their regular jockeys could not be in two places at once. As a direct consequence, however, the sport was able to celebrate an edifying breakthrough in the maiden Group One success of Hayley Turner, who proved herself first among equals on Dream Ahead.
For all her pioneering excellence, preoccupation with the jockey resulted in a culpable neglect of David Simcock, whose handling of Dream Ahead would be a credit to a far more seasoned trainer. He held his nerve through a frustrating spring, and has now won three Group Ones in just six starts with a colt whose sire has meanwhile been banished to a stud near Pamplona.
If some had seemed in an unseemly haste to write off Dream Ahead, then how about the way Dancing Rain has been opposed in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh tomorrow? The filly she beat at Epsom, Wonder Of Wonders, has been made odds-on to reverse the form thanks to a consensus that Johnny Murtagh perpetrated some brazen larceny in an uncontested lead on Dancing Rain.
But those unfortunate enough to have shared the conviction that Wonder Of Wonders was an outstanding bet that day will know that Kieren Fallon was perfectly wise to Murtagh's opportunism. Always closest of her pursuers, he gave his mount the full length of the straight to run her down. The fact that she briefly looked certain to do so, only for Dancing Rain to assert again close home, has been ascribed to her apparent discomfort on the camber. Few have given the remotest credence to the possibility that Dancing Rain, herself a long-striding filly who should relish the open spaces of the Curragh, might have disclosed authentic Classic ability in only the fourth race of her career, and just six weeks after winning her maiden.
It would be pretty sickening, for those of us who backed Wonder Of Wonders after her brilliant trial at Chester, to see her bolt up tomorrow. But if she seemed a good bet at Epsom, it is hard to see why she should be a better one at much shorter odds now. Granted that Dancing Rain may well have been flattered, the shape of the market instead demands a closer look at one or two at bigger prices.
Blue Bunting is certainly better than she showed at Epsom, where she received one of the more inattentive rides of Frankie Dettori's career. Her performance tomorrow, relative to Dancing Rain, should certainly disclose the full measure of any advantage stolen by Murtagh that day.
The Godolphin second string, Rumh, could go well at a huge price. She was clearly not herself in the conditions in the Ribblesdale, just a week after a generous effort at Newbury. But the best value of all is the winner that day, Banimpire. Her all-out, photo-finish success (above left) leaves her something still to find, but Jim Bolger has long been a master at hewing a new seam of improvement from granite-tough fillies. This one has been beaten once in six starts in barely two months, when an excellent fifth over an inadequate trip in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, and dragged the runner-up seven lengths clear at Royal Ascot. That was only her second start at this trip, and Bolger suspects she prefers better ground.
There will be no complaints about quality next Saturday, with connections of Workforce yesterday declaring an eagerness – in principle – to exorcise his mysterious failure in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes last year. He will take on St Nicholas Abbey and Rewilding at Ascot so long as conditions are not too firm.
There is an undeniably plain look to proceedings today, however, with the Weatherbys Super Sprint too full of unexposed youngsters to volunteer a strong bet. Richard Hannon's record in this race testifies to his perennial ability to produce good winners from no better than middle-market bloodlines. But it's doubtful that even he knows for sure which of his is improving fastest, and Sweet Chili looks a fair price at 16-1. She sank without trace in soft ground last time, but her previous form makes her look dangerously weighted.
She is, moreover, ridden by Turner's great rival, Cathy Gannon. Perhaps she, too, can prove herself not just a good female jockey, but a good jockey full stop – another challenge, that is, to the Turf's inveterate habit of not taking winners at face value.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Desert Romance (3.10 Newmarket)
Did well to hang on for third after seeing off fierce competition for the lead at Redcar last time, and this drop in trip could bring out further improvement.
Wild Coco (2.35 Newmarket)
Form of her maiden success has worked out well, with three of those beaten out of sight winning next time out.
One To Watch
Noble Silk (Lucy Wadham) made a promising start at York last weekend, making ground very smoothly for a colt bred for middle distances.
Where The Money's Going
Silvestre de Sousa is 7-4 from 5-2 with William Hill for the jockeys' title, now sharing favouritism with Paul Hanagan, himself eased from 11-8.
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