09/03/2008 11:00PM

Duke of Marmalade's streak in jeopardy


Duke of Marmalade puts his five-race winning streak in Group 1 stakes on the line at Leopardstown on Saturday when he renews his rivalry with New Approach in the 1 1/4-mile $1.45 million Irish Champion Stakes.

Just two weeks ago, Duke of Marmalade beat New Approach into third by 3 1/4 lengths in the Juddmonte International Stakes at Newmarket. Conditions this time, however, may lean toward an improved performance by New Approach, who was making his first start since winning the Epsom Derby on June 7 in the Juddmonte.

Moreover, the ground is expected to be on the soft side of good at Leopardstown on Saturday, and that would be good for New Approach but not so good for Duke of Marmalade.

In fact, Duke of Marmalade may be withdrawn if it comes up too soft. His trainer, Aidan O'Brien has won four of the last five Irish Champion runnings.

Meanwhile, New Approach's tendency to pull hard early will work against him. He was able to overcome rankness in the Epsom Derby but it probably cost him whatever chance he had in the Juddmonte.

O'Brien will also saddle his 1 1/4-mile Group 2 Royal Whip Stakes winner King of Rome and Duke of Marmalade's regular pacemaker, Red Rock Canyon. Recent Group 3 winners Multidimensional and Mores Wells appear overmatched.

On the same card, Lush Lashes will drop back to a mile for the Group 1, $362,000 Matron Stakes. She won at this distance and level in Royal Ascot's Coronation Stakes but her most recent outing on Aug. 22 was a win in the 1 1/2-mile Yorkshire Oaks at Newmarket. Versatile and adaptable, the Jim Bolger-trained Lush Lashes is the one they all have to beat.

O'Brien will send out Halfway to Heaven, the winner in her last two starts - the 1 1/4-mile Nassau Stakes by a head over a very unlucky Lush Lashes, and the Irish 1000 Guineas. Nahoodh, fourth in the Prix d'Astarte after her win in the Falmouth Stakes, and Carribean Sunset, a winner of the Desmond Stakes after her fourth in the American Oaks, are contenders, as is O'Brien's Group 1 winner Listen and his two-time Group 2 winner You'resothrilling, both of whom are making their 2008 debuts.