Wise Dan aims to scale fresh heights in weighting game
Unbeaten as he is, for now the Derby winner is arguably not even the most accomplished thoroughbred who happens to have an engagement on Saturday. For a few hours after Ruler Of The World attempts to extend his Epsom supremacy on to home soil, in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, an outstanding American champion sets a fresh challenge to such parochial perspectives as may have been re-inforced by the failure of Animal Kingdom at Royal Ascot last week.
For the task undertaken by Wise Dan – as good a turf horse as the Americans have produced in recent years – is one that would never be contemplated here, so long as institutional prejudice persists against handicaps as a means of measuring elite quality on the Flat. It is a different story over jumps, where a horse such as Denman could lend substance to the reputation he had gained, at levels, by conceding so much weight in the Hennessy Gold Cup. But there is no provision for Flat champions here to match Wise Dan, who must concede a minimum of 11lb to his rivals at Churchill Downs on Saturday. While the Firecracker Handicap is a rare Grade Two sortie for Wise Dan, following five consecutive wins at the highest level, some of the most illustrious races in the American calendar retain Grade One status despite levelling the playing field in this way.
For a horse as dominant as Wise Dan, last seen winning by just under five lengths over this track on the Kentucky Derby card, this kind of assignment introduces a fresh and stimulating gauge of merit. The Horse of the Year for 2012 could yet explore his range in a still more radical way, by trying his luck on dirt in the Breeders' Cup Classic this autumn.
Ruler Of The World heads nine declarations at the Curragh. He is evens with Ladbrokes, who laid the Epsom runner-up Libertarian from 4-1 to 7-2.
Classic form, meanwhile, stood up when Winning Express ran out the efficient winner of a Listed race at Warwick. Making her first start since running fourth in the 1,000 Guineas, the bargain filly proved well suited by the return to seven furlongs and drop in grade. Ed McMahon, her trainer, reported that she had been slightly held up after Newmarket and anticipates due improvement when she tackles older rivals for the first time in the Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood.
Chris Mcgrath's Nap
Asian Trader (9.10 Newmarket) Off the same mark as when pulling a long way clear of the rest when second at Salisbury last time.
Dhhamaan (4.20 Musselburgh)
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