In the clash of next year's Guineas prospects at Leopardstown last night, the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt Rip Van Winkle ended the unbeaten run of the filly Cuis Ghaire in the Tyros Stakes with a performance that would have delighted anyone clutching an ante-post voucher for the Classic on the Rowley Mile nine months hence. The handsome, powerful bay, previously 25-1 or more in the 2,000 lists, is now as short as 8-1.
The son of Galileo cut down his paternal half-sister in a matter of strides inside the final furlong with a decisive change of gear under Johnny Murtagh to win by a length and a half, clearly having learned a great deal from his debut run at the Curragh last month. On that occasion he went under by a short-head to Cuis Ghaire's stablemate Tomas An Tsioda, but won in the stewards' room.
Rip Van Winkle was O'Brien's fourth winner of the seven-furlong contest, transferred from the Curragh five years ago. His predecessors were variously talented and whether he takes after Van Nistelrooy (2002), Royal Kingdom (1999), Common Spirit (1995) or King Of Kings (1997) remains to be seen. Early in his Flat career, the Ballydoyle maestro used the race as a stepping stone for his first Classic-winning colt, Desert King, who finished second.
Cuis Ghaire, warm favourite for the 1,000 Guineas since her success in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot, lost very little in defeat. She met Rip Van Winkle and third-placed Vilasol at level weights, her 3lb sex allowance being offset by the same penalty for her Group Three win. She was trying to give Bolger a fourth Tyros Stakes in a row and had some mighty hoof prints to follow, the last two victors being New Approach and Teofilo.
O'Brien's 2,000 Guineas winner this year, Henrythenavigator, will face a maximum of 10 rivals in Wednesday's Sussex Sakes as he takes on older horses for the first time in his attempt to emulate former Ballydoyle inmate Rock Of Gibraltar, who also followed the Newmarket Classic with victory in its Irish version and the St James's Palace Stakes.
But those ranged against him in the mile feature, for which he has been installed as odds-on favourite, will not include last year's winner. Godolphin's ill-luck in a below-par season continued with the news yesterday that Ramonti will not defend his Goodwood title. The six-year-old, winner of four Group Ones last year, missed the first half of the current campaign because of a hind-leg infection and the problem has now flared up again.
Ramonti, who finished fifth on his reappearance at Ascot 12 days ago, had a step up to 10 furlongs, possibly in the York International, pencilled in after the Sussex Stakes, but all plans are now on hold. "The infection has recurred," said the blues' spokesman Simon Crisford, "and we do not know how long the situation will take to resolve."
This year, Godolphin have won 54 races in Britain, Dubai and the United States. The operation's sole Group One success here, Creachadoir's Lockinge Stakes, has been backed up by two at the top level by the filly Music Note in New York. Creachadoir is also frustratingly on the easy list, as are two other potential flagbearers, Ibn Khaldun and Fast Company.
Rip Van Winkle was the 58th victory of the campaign for Sheikh Mohammed's arch-rivals in Co Tipperary. The total includes 13 Group Ones, with Duke Of Marmalade odds-on to notch the 14th in tomorrow's King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The four-year-old will be accompanied to post by stablemates Macarthur and likely pacemaker Red Rock Canyon, with five from the home side – second favourite Youmzain, Lucarno, Papal Bull, Ask and Petara Bay – facing the Ballydoyle trio.
Though no three-year-olds are involved at Ascot, two of the Classic generation, Tajaaweed and Campanologist, will try their luck against their elders tomorrow one rung down the status ladder, in the Group Two SkyBet York Stakes. Tajaaweed, like Ask and Papal Bull from the Sir Michael Stoute stable, has not been seen since his eighth place in the Derby. "I don't think Epsom suited him," said Angus Gold, racing manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan. "He's a big, tall horse. York is flatter, so we'll see."
Campanologist, the Godolphin representative, comes on from his creditable fourth in the Eclipse Stakes, where another rival at York, Pipedreamer, was a neck in front.
The Irish racing authorities yesterday dismissed an appeal by the connections of Curtain Call – hampered by swerving Alessandro Volta when fifth in the Irish Derby – against the decisio *by the local stewards not to promote him in front of his wayward O'Brien-trained rival.
2,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 2 May, 2009) Coral: 8-1 (from 25-1) Rip Van Winkle, 14-1 Art Connoisseur, Zacinto, 16-1 Mastercraftsman, Bushranger, 25-1 Alhaban, Arazan, Westphalia.
1,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, 3 May, 2009) Coral: 8-1 Cuis Ghaire, 14-1 Shimah, 20-1 Rainbow View, 25-1 Blas Ceoil, 33-1 Danidh Dubai, Honest Quality.