Irish Champion Stakes: Super Dylan brings it all back home

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With Killiney Hill and the high horizon of the waters of Dublin Bay in one direction, and a Blackrock housing estate in the other, the merit of the aspect from the stands here can be debated. Yesterday, between the two, the judgement of the view was unequivocal. For Dylan Thomas in full flight is some sight.

The four-year-old, the 8-15 favourite for the Irish Champion Stakes, duly had his confidence-booster ahead of his tilt at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe next month, and made history in the process. He became the first horse to win the prestigious 10-furlong contest twice, and also, almost incidentally, led home a clean sweep for his Ballydoyle stable,with Duke Of Marmalade(15-2) and Red Rock Canyon, the 100-1 pacemaker, following him in.

The Group One race had looked a benefit for Dylan Thomas, reunited with Kieren Fallon for the first time since the pair took the race last year, and so it proved. Red Rock Canyon, with Colm O'Donoghue repeatedly monitoring the situation over his shoulder, set a strong, even gallop; Duke Of Marmalade and Seamie Heffernan took up the baton into the straight.

The runner-up being no mug, Fallon's one brief moment of anxiety came at that point. "I was slightly worried when Duke Of Marmalade took three lengths out of us," he said, "but I was on the right horse to pick him up."

Dylan Thomas is a long, rangy individual who needs time to engage top gear, but once he does, his stride is awesome. "When he gets rolling," said his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, "he's a steam engine. Over a mile and a half he's uncomplicated, as he's got the distance to do it. But over shorterhe needs a solid pace, and the boys did a good job out there."

It was the Danehill colt's fifth top-level success, and in the euphoria of victory Fallon paid him the considerable compliment of declaring him the best he has ridden. "I could hardly believe the way he did it today," he said. "He's just gone from strength to strength."

Dylan Thomas, whose one caveat is that he needs ground like yesterday's good-to-firm to show his very best, remains fourth favourite to give O'Brien his first Arc, behind Authorized, who beat him on his previous run at York, Zambezi Sun and Manduro.

Red Rocks, fourth ahead of Maraahel, proved best of the British raiders, but the anti-limax of the race was the performance of the dual Guineas winner Finsceal Beo, last of the six. "Just not our day," said her trainer, Jim Bolger, sadly.

It was O'Brien's fifth Irish Champion Stakes, Giant's Causeway, High Chaparral and Oratorio being his first three victors, and his assertion that the race is Europe's most important for a prospective stallion's CV cannot be crabbed. The inaugural winner in 1984 was, after all, Sadler's Wells.

It was fitting that Ryan Moore who, in terms of sheer admirable skill and strength, has filled the void among the jockey ranks in Britain left by Fallon, should shine with a double on Echelon in the supporting Group One Matron Stakes and Hearthstead Maison in the Group Three contest. It was a first top-level success for Echelon, a typical improver for the Sir Michael Stoute and Cheveley Park Stud combo, on her 19th appearance. She won by a length and a half from fellow-raider Red Evie, who lost little in defeat on ground firmer than ideal.

At Haydock, the Barry Hills-trained Red Clubs earned his reward for honest endeavour at the top level as he took the Sprint Cup, ahead of French challenger Marchand d'Or and Balthazaar's Gift. The favourite, Sakhee's Secret, winner of the July Cup, had to settle for fifth place.

The Group One circus moves to Longchamp this afternoon where O'Brien's enigmatic George Washington reverts to a mile in the Prix du Moulin, opposed chiefly by Godolphin's colourbearer Ramonti.