09/06/2012 3:16PM

Nathaniel takes on Snow Fairy and St Nicholas Abbey in Irish Champion

Email

The best race in Ireland so far this year takes place Saturday at Leopardstown with Nathaniel, Snow Fairy, and St Nicholas Abbey the main attractions among six horses entered in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes.

The Irish Champion is a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, earning its victor an automatic berth in the race plus travel expenses, and the Irish Champion might well have Breeders’ Cup implications. St Nicholas Abbey won the 2011 BC Turf and might well return to defend his title, while Snow Fairy’s name has cropped up as a BC possible. Nathaniel, however, has the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe as a major autumn goal.

Perhaps with that in mind, trainer John Gosden said this week that Nathaniel probably would not be at his best for the Irish Champion, but punters were not buying Gosden’s line. As of Thursday, Nathaniel was the solid favorite over Snow Fairy in antepost betting on the Irish Champion, a 1 1/4-mile race expected to be contested over good ground. Four-year-old Nathaniel has finished first or second in eight of his nine starts and is a two-time Group 1 winner whose very best race might still be in front of him. Somewhat late to the races in 2012, Nathaniel beat talented Farhh in the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse, his comeback race, before finishing second by a nose to 2011 Arc winner Danedream in the King George Stakes on July 21. Saturday’s race will be his first start outside England.

Snow Fairy was injured last winter in Hong Kong, but having been patiently brought along to race readiness by trainer Ed Dunlop, she scored a smart comeback win in the Group 1 Prix Romanet on Aug. 19 at Deauville. Snow Fairy, an eight-time winner with multiple Group 1’s on her resume, raced in the 2011 Irish Champion, coming within a half-length of an in-form So You Think in a strong performance.

St Nicholas Abbey’s lone win this year came in the Group 1 Coronation Cup, but he has been in fine form all season long. A better horse at 12 furlongs than 10, his connections might be happy with a solid run that would propel St Nicholas Abbey into major mile-and-a-half races in the fall.

Born To Sea, Light Heavy, and Daddy Long Legs complete the field.

The Matron, a filly-and-mare race on the Irish Champion undercard, attracted a somewhat subpar field of 11 for a Group 1 contest. Emulous, Duntle, and Maybe head the ante-post wagering.

Ortensia favored at Haydock

Jockeys William Buick and Frankie Dettori, who respectively ride Nathaniel and Snow Fairy, are in for a hectic Saturday. Both riders have mounts in the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup and will fly via helicopter from England to Ireland late Saturday afternoon following the Haydock race.

Buick has the mount on race favorite Ortensia, the Australian mare who has spent the last several months in England, and who was mentioned this week by her trainer, Paul Messara, as a possible runner in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Ortensia is coming off consecutive Group 1 victories in the Goodwood Cup and the Nunthorpe after ninth- and fourth-place finishes in her first two English attempts. Bated Breath and Strong Suit are considered her chief rivals in a six-furlong race that attracted 15 entrants.

russell More than 1 year ago
Excellent race. St Nicks was short at the distance and finished very well. Snow Fairy got the loot.
russell More than 1 year ago
This should be a great race. I like St Nick because he won me loot last year. He can win this race.
Paul_Tuon More than 1 year ago
Other European News: O'Brien's "most incredible" horse ready for St Leger test Leading Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien has labelled unbeaten colt Camelot as "the most incredible horse we have had" a week out from his bid to become the first three-year-old in more than 40 years to win the European Triple Crown. Nijinsky was the last horse to win the English and Irish Derbies as well as the English St Leger in the same year in 1970. Camelot posted a five-length win in the English Derby before taking out the Irish Derby by two lengths at the Curragh in June. Ladbrokes has posted Camelot as a 1/3 chance to take his record to six wins from as many starts. O'Brien told At The Races the son of Montjeu has progressed well ahead of his St Leger assignment. "Everything's gone well - so far so good - but it's a very difficult test for a horse able to be dropped out in the (2000) Guineas over a mile on his first run of the season, to have that pace and then win the Derby," O'Brien said. "It's a massive test and all we can do is turn up on the day and hopefully have him ready. "He's the most incredible horse we have had since we started and we're so grateful and privileged to have him." Camelot is one of 16 horses left in contention for a St Leger start. Doncaster will host the St Leger on Saturday September 15. News out of Australia: US trip on the cards for Ortensia This Saturday's Sprint Cup at Haydock will be Ortensia's last European start but trainer Paul Messara is thinking strongly about the dual Hemisphere Group I winner's career continuing abroad. Messara confirmed the daughter of Testa Rossa won't go to France to run in the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp on Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe day but he is weighing up a trip to the US. "This will be her last run in Europe, she won't run again over here," Messara told sportinglife.com. "There is a possibility that we will give some consideration to the Breeders' Cup race. But we'll just have to see how she comes out of this race first." The 2012 Breeders' Cup raceday will be run this year at Santa Anita. The race Ortensia would contest is the $US1 million Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (1300m) on November 3. Ortensia's last start win in the Group I Nunthorpe Stakes (1000m) at York assured the mare of a start in the rich US sprint as it carried Breeders' Cup Challenge status. "The Breeders' Cup pays entry fees and provides travel allowances for the connections of the Challenge winners," the Breeders' Cup website said. Stay tuned!!!
Paul_Tuon More than 1 year ago
Ortensia coming to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint this fall? Now that is very exciting -- for me that is. I don't recall any Australian champion horses ever competed in the BC--or, have they? I'm just a little partial to any horse from Australia. As far as St Nicholas Abbey coming to the BC Turf to defend his title, I kind of doubt that Aidan O'brien would send him her since he has nothing left to prove to anyone. If Obrien doesn't have any horse besides St Nicholas Abbey that can come to the BC, then I would agree with Marcus that O'brien would him to the BC. But since O'brien got a very good 3yo in Camelot that he can send to the BC Turf this fall, I think he might Camelot instead of St Nicholoas Abbey. That's my prediction; we'll wait and see.
Paul_Tuon More than 1 year ago
I forgot, So You Think, an outstanding Australian racehorse, ran in the Breeders' Cup Classic last year in which he finished 6th.