The good, the bad and the marquee, and a nul point too
Here, in the finest Eurovision tradition, are the votes from the Irish jury – David Jennings on the performances over Irish Champions Weekend
0 points . . .
. . . to the HRI BOARD for sanctioning the decision for day two at the Curragh while it is being redeveloped. Derek McGrath and his team have done a reasonably good job with temporary facilities but we shouldn't have been there. To attract only 5,370 people to see a card with three Group 1s isn't good enough, even allowing for bad weather. There were 10,978 on the same day in 2014. And we're in for more of the same in 2018.
1 point . . .
. . . goes to CHURCHILL. The dual 2,000 Guineas winner was six and a half lengths in front of Decorated Knight at York, so there was a turnaround of more than ten lengths at Leopardstown. He seemed perfectly poised to strike on the home turn but lacked the acceleration needed to go by 33-1 outsider Moonlight Magic. He is evidently not the horse we thought and where he goes next will be intriguing. That will be a retrieval mission of enormous magnitude.
2 points . . .
. . . go to MARQUEES. For all their advantages, they simply don't work in wind and rain. You couldn't hear yourself think at the Curragh on Sunday with the downpours pounding on the plastic and galeforce winds adding more decibels to the noise pollution.
3 points . . .
. . . go to the IRISH CHAMPION STAKES. It was ranked the second-best race in the world in 2016 as Almanzor fended of Found, but the 2017 edition was not in the same parish. A Churchill victory might have papered over the cracks, but neither Ulysses nor Barney Roy turning up was a big blow.
4 points . . .
. . . go to RYAN MOORE. He was lower down the list on Saturday night after defeats on Sir John Lavery in the Boomerang and Churchill, but he came up trumps on Order Of St George and Caravaggio on Sunday. Twelve rides, six of them favourites, but only two winners. Moore no doubt expected more.
5 points . . .
. . . go to WINTER. Aidan O'Brien revealed in the lead-up to the Matron Stakes that his star filly had missed eight or nine days work after Goodwood with a bruised foot, but it was still a shade disappointing to see her agonisingly denied by exposed stablemate Hydrangea. Perhaps an awesome autumn campaign lies ahead, and here's hoping connections have a crack at the Arc.
6 points . . .
. . . go to the CHAMPIONS SALE. The pre-racing entertainment at Leopardstown made for fascinating viewing. After being a pretty damp squib in 2016, Saturday's sale was vastly improved, with more talented thoroughbreds available for purchase and lots more cash splashed. Izzy Bizu made €290,000 but surely the biggest success story was the €260,000 sale of Burgundy Boy. The son of Red Jazz was bought by Sheila Lavery and her niece Joanne Lavery, who is an intern at Goffs, for just €17,000 at the 2015 Goffs November Foal Sale. Now that's what you call good business.
7 points . . .
. . . go to DANNY TUDHOPE. Not only did he pick the right one in the Boomerang but he gave Suedois a silky-smooth ride to snatch the spoils. As Moore was being squeezed on Sir John Lavery, Tudhope managed to source the perfect passage on a horse that was running over a mile for the first time since his debut. It was a thing of beauty.
8 points . . .
. . . .go to JIM BOLGER. Verbal Dexterity, the runaway National Stakes winner, is all his own work. Not only does he train him, but he bred him too. He also bred and trained his dam, Lonrach, and bred and trained his granddam, Luminous One. He trained Vocalised too, the sire of Verbal Dexterity. He now has a genuine Classic contender on his hands once again.
9 points . . .
. . . go to AIDAN O'BRIEN. The Ballydoyle maestro added three more Group 1s to bring his tally to 17 for the season and is now just 7-4 with Ladbrokes to beat Bobby Frankel's record of 25. He sent out the 1-2-3 in the Moyglare and the 1-2 in the Matron. Neither was in the order punters expected, but it was still an achievement. He won five of the 16 prizes on offer – three Group 1s, a Group 2 and a Group 3. That's not to be sniffed at, even in Ballydoyle language.
10 points . . .
. . . go to ANDREA ATZENI and ROGER CHARLTON. Jamie Spencer tweeted what we were all thinking: "Atzeni, probably the most naturally gifted rider born to ride a horse, lovely to watch." He was ice-cool on Decorated Knight. Judging by the post-race quotes from both trainer and rider, the 25-1 shot was ridden to pick up the pieces. Place-money would have been great, and he was ridden like that. It fell apart up front and Atzeni's patience paid off. They hit the jackpot.
11 points . . .
. . . go to BRITAIN. Only 11 per cent of the runners at Leopardstown on Saturday were trained in Britain (11 out of 99 runners), yet Decorated Knight led home a 1-2-3 for the visitors in the Irish Champion, Suedois won the Group 2 Boomerang and Burnt Sugar was too sweet for the home team in the concluding premier handicap. Eleven per cent of the runners and 33 per cent of the winners. Ice Age added to the visitors' bounty in the Bold Lad Handicap on Sunday, while Snazzy Jazzy won the lucrative Tattersalls sales race to make it a wonderful weekend for the Brits.
12 points . . .
. . . goes to ORDER OF ST GEORGE. Dominant. Devastating. Demolition job. The final Group 1 of the weekend was the vehicle for the most dazzling display of all. Galileo's most relentless stayer regained his Irish St Leger crown with such authority it made you wonder how on earth Big Orange managed to fend him off in the Ascot Gold Cup. When there is 'soft' in the going description, Order Of St George looks the best stayer we have seen since Yeats.
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