09/05/2007 11:00PM

Dylan Thomas looks to repeat in Irish Champion Stakes


Defense will be the order of the day at Leopardstown on Saturday when Dylan Thomas and Red Evie seek to retain their titles in valuable Group 1 prizes.

The objective for Dylan Thomas, a 4-year-old son of Danehill trained by Aidan O'Brien, is a second successive victory in the $1.36 million Irish Champion Stakes, a race he won last year at the expense of Ouija Board. Brilliant in winning the 1 1/2-mile King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last time July 28, Dylan Thomas is dropping back to 1 1/4 miles, a distance over which he failed when he was second in both the Prince of Wales's Stakes and the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

This year's Irish Champion lacks the depth of some past runnings. Maraahel, the two-time winner of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes going 1 1/2 miles, was 7 1/2 lengths behind Dylan Thomas when third in the King George. The Breeders' Cup Turf winner Red Rocks returned from a dull effort in the Dubai Sheema Classic to win the 1 1/4-mile, Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes in April, but has not run since his fourth-place finish in the June 20 Prince of Wales, in which he finished 4 3/4 lengths behind runner-up Dylan Thomas.

Duke of Marmalade, also trained by O'Brien, was second in both the 2000 Guineas and the St. James's Palace but will be making his first start beyond a mile.

The wild card is Finsceal Beo, a filly trained by Jim Bolger and also untested past a mile. By Mr. Greeley out of a Royal Academy mare, she has a pedigree that suggests she will not stay 10 furlongs, although her victories in the English and Irish 1000 Guineas, as well as her second, by a head, to Darjina in the French 1000, have stamped her as a high-class performer.

But with Kieren Fallon back in Dylan Thomas's saddle, the defending champ should be capable of the victory.

Red Evie outgamed Peeress in last year's one-mile $340,000 Matron Stakes. This time around, Red Evie, a 4-year-old trained by Michael Bell, will be challenged by Echelon, the recent winner of the Group 2 Celebration Mile against males, and Arch Swing, the 1000 Guineas runner-up who has since been a close third in the one-mile Group 1 Falmouth Stakes, in which Red Evie was only seventh. Red Evie beat males herself in May when she landed the Group 2 Lockinge Stakes, and she is coming off a typically hard-fought win in the seven-furlong Group 2 Hungerford Stakes, also against males. With a fast pace assured, she has the guts to outmuscle her female opponents with Jamie Spencer at the controls.

Sakhee's Secret heads Sprint Cup

Sakhee's Secret, the winner of all four of his starts this year, heads a field of 16 in Saturday's $600,000 Group 1 Haydock Park Sprint Cup. A 3-year-old son of Sakhee, Sakhee's Secret looked sharp winning the Group 1 July Cup last out over the Sprint Cup distance of six furlongs, but he will be tested by the Freddie Head-trained Marchand d'Or, fresh from his second successive triumph in the 6 1/2-furlong Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest.