Jamie Lynch's Monthly High-Fives: September 2017

There is top quality racing from the Curragh in September
There is top quality racing from the Curragh in September

Timeform chief correspondent Jamie Lynch picks out five important dates coming up in September...

"The clue is in the race title, the Flying Five, as Caravaggio is neither flying right now nor accustomed to five furlongs, and even at his peak in the Commonwealth Cup he took some stoking up..."

'My favourite poem is the one that starts 'Thirty days hath September' because it actually tells you something.' Groucho Marx had it right. Enough of all the banal balladry about ghosts of summer and the accession of autumn, give me a poem that's easy to recall and recount, so I don't have to count, away with counting misery, the job done for me. But thirty days is barely enough for racing, bursting at the seams in September, for quality and quantity, in Britain, France and Ireland. The racing year doesn't get much better than September...

Irish Champions Weekend - Leopardstown/Curragh - September 9

It was the race of 2016 in Europe. This time, it's not even the most riveting race of the weekend. In last year's edition, when Almanzor beat Found and Minding, who won the Champion Stakes, the Arc and the QEII between them the following month, it heightened the spire on the Irish Champion Stakes as a Cathedral of racing, visible from miles away, for years to come. Impossible standards.

This isn't quite like comparing The Matrix to The Matrix Reloaded, but as sequels go it lacks the same standard, style and suspense, with only one of the tasty trio from York due for a quick reappearance, Churchill the 13/8 favourite with the Betfair Sportsbook. It's just not very sexy, and, though Winter is, those against her aren't, reducing the Matron to a lap of honour.

For a change, the Sunday is where it's at on Irish Champions Weekend, specifically with the top-tier two-year-olds. The Moyglare for the girls is a graduation as much as a Group 1, the opportunity for one of the many bright Ballydoyle belles who've flashed flair at different times - Clemmie, Happily, Magical and September - to top the class once and for all.

But the National Stakes, for the burgeoning boys, is, in prospect, the humdinger head-to-head of Irish Champions Weekend, with so much to factor in: Gustav Klimt had the 'X' factor at Newmarket, but Expert Eye had the 'Wow' factor at Goodwood. Both have done things rarely seen amongst juveniles, for extrication for Gustav Klimt and for exhilaration for Expert Eye, and this isn't just a battle in the here and now, as it's probably the two-year-old championship at stake, and possibly the Guineas, too.

Sprint Cup - Haydock - September 9

There have been six Group 1 sprints across Europe this year, and six different winners. No sooner do we think we've found the King (Caravaggio), or Queen (Lady Aurelia), than another usurper comes along. If there has been one constant in the division, it's been the rise to royalty of Harry Angel, but even then the July Cup was served up to him, on a pace-free, pressure-free plate. In this climate, Harry Angel's odds for the Sprint Cup look too skinny.

Brando came home faster than him (from much further back) at Newmarket, the bias all against The Tin Man there, too, and we shouldn't forget that Blue Point beat Harry Angel back in May, also little between them when the pair played second- and third-fiddle in the Commonwealth Cup. It's not that Harry Angel's price overplays his power, more that it underestimates the collective strength of the sprinting scene. It has been a dynamic division, in every sense, in 2017.

Arc Trials Day - Chantilly - September 10

Now then. What was looking irrelevant, because of Enable's talent, has suddenly become meaningful, because of Enable's team-mate. We were all ready to just hand Europe's premier prize, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, to the exceptional Enable, but then Cracksman did what he did, and then John Gosden said what he said, that the horse's season may extend after all to the Prix Niel. If Cracksman wins the Prix Niel - and he will - it would be difficult, and a little deranged, not to let him loose in the main event three weeks later.

The Prix Foy, on the same card, is significant in itself for a chance to assess the latest Japanese juggernaut to march on Paris, Satono Diamond a multiple Group 1 winner in his homeland and bringing a heavyweight Timeform rating of 129 with him. Neither is the stuff of nightmares for Enable, but one or both of Cracksman and Satono Diamond could just cause her to sleep less easily, depending on what ammo they fire on the 10th.

St Leger Festival - Doncaster - September 13-16

This is shaping up to be the best St Leger for years, rare for there to be such strength in depth at the top end, precisely the reason the first four in the betting are 7/2, 4/1, 5/1 and 6/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook. The St Leger is so often a black-and-white issue, the race and rumination surrounding one short-priced horse, but it's the opposite this time, sport for all.

The fantastic four are all already on or near the winning standard for a St Leger, and each brings something different to the table: Crystal Ocean's is the classic approach, Capri is the classic winner, Stradivarius is the time traveller, and Defoe is the mountain climber. The reason Stradivarius could be termed a time traveller is that he's already done what most of these will be trying to do next year, by winning a 'Cup' race, and Goodwood was a big graduation - a Big Orange graduation.

It's a little disconcerting that Capri has been absent since the Irish Derby, where he beat Cracksman no less, whereas Crystal Ocean is coming in all guns blazing after everything finally clicked with him in the Gordon. Crystal Ocean was probably born great but took a while to work it out, Capri had greatness thrust upon him by a misshapen Irish Derby, and Defoe is on his way to achieving greatness the hard way, by hard graft, from more humble beginnings. It's a magical mix for this year's Leger.

Middle Park Stakes - Newmarket - September 30

The biggest juvenile guns are tending to fire their shots in the 7f and 1m Group 1s by this stage of the year, and you have to go back to 2010, to Dream Ahead, for the last Middle Park winner who stayed at the top. It may all change with the nuclear National Stakes at the Curragh, but, as things stand right now, four of the top five two-year-olds on Timeform ratings have the Middle Park as their likely destination, namely Unfortunately, Sands of Mali, Sioux Nation and Beckford.

This Middle Park should be hotter than recent renewals, and Sands of Mali may be the hottest of all, too hot for the Gimcrack field to handle. With the fast fillies around this year, the Cheveley Park on the same day promises to hit the spot, too.

Recommended Bet

Caravaggio has gone from warrior to wobbler in the space of two runs, and preying on him in the Flying Five at the Curragh on the Sunday of Irish Champions Weekend looks a sound strategy.

The clue is in the race title, the Flying Five, as Caravaggio is neither flying right now nor accustomed to five furlongs, and even at his peak in the Commonwealth Cup he took some stoking up.

On the other hand, for Profitable it's a case of the faster the better, finishing ahead of Marsha at both Royal Ascot and Goodwood this year, but not drawn to do so in the Nunthorpe, stuck on the far wing from stall 1. At 9/2 with the Betfair Sportsbook, Profitable is a juicy price to outpace Caravaggio at the Curragh.

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