The second day of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh will be the focus of the racing world this afternoon and Kevin reckons he has found a couple of value propositions that will represent him well.
"Four British-trained runners line up for the opening race at 14:00 and the one I like the most is the Richard Fahey-trained three-year-old George Bowen. I have to declare an interest, as I bred the horse, but I have been watching him very closely from the first run of his career and I'd like to think I have a good handle on him."
The big sprint handicap of the day is the Irish Stallion Farms EBF "Bold Lad" Sprint Handicap (14:00) and there is a very clear angle in it that I am keen to try and exploit.
There has been a very notable trend since the beginning of last season for British-trained runners to dominate premier handicaps at under a mile in Ireland. I produced the data and theories behind this in more length in an article earlier this year and it was given another boost at Leopardstown yesterday with British-trained horses finishing first and second in the valuable seven-furlong handicap that closed the card.
Four British-trained runners line up for this contest and the one I like the most is the Richard Fahey-trained three-year-old George Bowen. I have to declare an interest, as I bred the horse, but I have been watching him very closely from the first run of his career and I'd like to think I have a good handle on him.
For me, he wasn't suited by the seven-furlong trip he was asked to tackle on five occasions this season and the return to six furlongs very much did the trick in the Grey Horse Handicap at Newmarket last time. The winning margin may only have been a length, but he won with much more in hand, as he was drawn on the wrong side and had the race wrapped over there a furlong out only for a couple of rivals to come at him late from the other side of the track. A 6lb rise is more than fair, the rain that has arrived is unlikely to inconvenience him and it also means that the draw is not as crucial over this course as it is on firmer ground. All told, I feel he has a very big chance and warrants support.
The main event of the day is the Palmerstown House Estate Irish St Leger (16:50) and the race has been livened up by the late switch of Order Of St George into the field. He has been installed as favourite and given how impressive he was in the Irish St Leger Trial over this course and distance, that is understandable. A quick glance at the history of the race will tell you that a three-year-old hasn't won the race since Vinnie Roe in 2001, but given the proximity of the English St Leger, only nine three-year-olds have run in the race in the last 10 years and four of them have finished in the frame, so I wouldn't get carried away about that particular "trend".
For all that Order Of St George is respected, the one that makes the most appeal to me at the prices is the Dermot Weld-trained Forgotten Rules. He may have lost his unbeaten record in the Ascot Gold Cup, but for me he lost little else. The ground was much firmer than ideal and as much as anything, the two-and-a-half mile trip just seemed to stretch his stamina. I was surprised to see him turned out just 10 days later at the Curragh and it wasn't a big surprise to see his colours lowered by Bondi Beach and Order Of St George, but that run is easy to forgive.
Now that he has been freshened up and crucially gets an ease in the ground for the first time this season, I expect him to bounce back to form and make a very bold bid.
The Irish Stallion Farms EBF "Northfields" Handicap (17:55) is one of the most fiercely-competitive handicaps of the weekend, but the rain has harmed the chances of many and the one that makes the most appeal on the prevailing surface is the John Oxx-trained Nebulla.
The son of Iffraaj won a maiden at Nottingham for Noel Quinlan in November and switched to Oxx for this season. His Irish debut came over an inadequate seven furlongs at this track in July, but he really impressed me when winning a four-runner conditions race over 11 furlongs at Killarney last time. That affair was run at a sedate pace and having been poorly positioned as the race went, he quickened up very nicely to get up and win well. That performance suggests that his mark is fair and with a more truly-run race being sure to suit, I could see him running a very big race.
Back George Bowen 1.5pts each-way @ 13.012/1 or better in the 14:00 at the Curragh
Back Forgotten Rules 2pts to win @ 6.05/1 or better in the 16:50 at the Curragh
Back Nebulla 1pt each-way @ 15.014/1 or better in the 17:55 at the Curragh