09/05/2009 12:00AM

Sea the Stars extends win streak


Sea the Stars produced yet another brilliant performance at Leopardstown on Saturday with an imperious triumph in the $1.4 million Irish Champion Stakes. In recording his fifth Group 1 victory of the season in five tries, the John Oxx-trained son of Cape Cross and Urban Sea defeated the accomplished Fame and Glory by 2 1/2 lengths, three-quarters of a length further than he had beaten the same horse when winning the Epsom Derby.

Owned by Hong Kong businessman Christopher Tsui, Sea The Stars must now be considered one of the best European horses of modern times. The ease with which he wins his races, rarely raising himself above a gallop and winning by no more than is necessary, are hallmarks of greatness. And the quality of competition he has been facing, beating older horses in all three of his victories since completing his classic double in the 2000 Guineas and the Derby, has been top class. Irish Derby winner Fame and Glory has now been runner-up to him twice, while Irish 2000 Guineas and St. James's Palace Stakes winner Mastercraftsman, who was another 2 1/2 lengths behind in third in the Irish Champion, has tasted Sea The Stars's sting three times. Rip Van Winkle, perhaps the best miler in the world after Goldikova, also has been beaten by him three times.

Sent off as the 4-6 favorite in a field of nine, Sea the Stars was settled in sixth by Michael Kinane as trainer Aidan O'Brien's rabbit Set Sail and the outsider Loch Long set the pace. Mastercraftsman led entering the 2 1/2-furlong stretch, but Fame and Glory soon took over from his O'Brien-trained stablemate. Sea The Stars, however, was cruising up alongside that pair and took command at the three-sixteenths pole. His time for the 1 1/4 miles was a quickish 2:03.90. By comparison, the O'Brien-trained Poet had won the Group 3 Kilternan Stakes 100 minutes earlier over the same distance in 2:07.02.

Sea the Stars was immediately installed as the 7-4 favorite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 4 by both Irish bookies Paddy Power and their British rivals at William Hill. That race will mark the return of Sea the Stars to 1 1/2 miles, a distance he has not run at since his Epsom Derby victory June 6. But neither that, any softish ground he might incur at Longchamp, nor challenges from the likes of the undefeated French filly Stacelita are likely to impede Sea the Stars.

Victory in the Irish Champion brings with it a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf as it is part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program. However, if Sea the Stars is to appear at Santa Anita on Nov. 7, it could be in the Classic, for which William Hill makes him the 2-1 favorite.

* Earlier, George Strawbridge's Rainbow View returned to winning ways with a two-length victory over Heaven Sent in the Group 1, $307,000 Matron Stakes. Previously winless in five Group 1 tries this year since her championship season at 2, the 5-4 John Gosden-trained Dynaformer filly covered the mile in 1:39.89 under Jimmy Fortune and is being considered for the 1 1/4-mile Prix de l'Opera on Arc Day as well as the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.