WHO doesn’t love a good old-fashioned rumour?
We’ve all been subject to ill-informed chat at one stage or another. Most of us are even guilty of spreading some ourselves from time to time, but this week Colin Keane found himself front and centre in racing’s circle of speculation.
But, as one would expect from the champion jockey, he continued to let his riding speak volumes while everyone else did the talking.
You see, Keane has been riding a few winners for Ballydoyle lately and while some logical minds might take the view that regular riders Seamie Heffernan is serving a short suspension and Wayne Lordan is sidelined with a shoulder injury, some more imaginative minds jumped to some predictable conclusions.
Of course, Keane is a world-class rider and, as his record shows, he would be perfectly worthy of Ballydoyle’s top job, but we’ve been down this road before with the likes of Pat Smullen and Oisin Murphy — all champions but what’s wrong with the current squad captained by Ryan Moore?
Travel restrictions have grounded Moore on many occasions this season.
Irish Champions Weekend remains the only time he ventured to Ireland, but he has enjoyed success for team Ballydoyle at Royal Ascot, York, Goodwood, etc.
More importantly for Keane, these winners are proving crucial in his battle to regain his championship crown, and while Shane Foley sits just five winners behind, Keane will miss tomorrow’s domestic action in favour of some classy rides at Ascot, where he is once again on duty for O’Brien (and boss Ger Lyons).
Team Ballydoyle are set for a busy day as their first slice of action comes in the Caulfield Cup at 7.15am tomorrow. Hugh Bowman will be aboard the former Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, and this horse could be ideally suited to southern hemisphere racing. After all, his mother won a Group 1 sprint in Australia.
A few hours later, O’Brien’s attention will turn to Ascot as he saddles a strong battalion of horses across the star-studded British Champions Day card.
This year marks a decade since the inception of British Champions Day and while the date of the event is far from ideal for horses targeting the Arc and Breeders’ Cup carnival, big names still turn up at Ascot for the four Group 1 races.
Magical is the headline act as she bids for back-to-back wins in the Qipco British Champions Stakes. Last year she narrowly denied Addeybb, and while she will have to contend with that rival once again, perhaps her biggest threat lay with French Derby winner Mishriff.
The danger of bad ground conditions often results in depleted fields, and it seems this is the case in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
The race is led by John Gosden’s Palace Pier, who must take on proven mud lark The Revenant and recent Sun Chariot winner Nazeef, but the reality is that, following the withdrawal of Kameko, this race is Palace Pier’s race for the taking.
Extremely lightly raced to the point where he has been almost frustrating to follow. He could be Europe’s best miler, but I would argue that the best run against the best and I’m not convinced this horse has achieved that yet.
However, he is the likely favourite here, and looks to have everything in his favour.
And then we come to the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes. No Love. No Enable. No showdown. We do, however, have a serious chance of stealing the prize back to Ireland — or to Glenburnie Stables, if one wants to be precise.
Colin Keane may have been the talk of the town recently, but his association with Ger Lyons has been steadfast, with a number of Group 1 highlights coming their way this summer.
One such high point came when Even So outstayed her rivals in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh in July, and I’m hoping she might do something similar at Ascot tomorrow.
Forget her run in the Prix Vermeille, the slow early pace was not nearly sufficient for her stamina, and while this is another big test, she is a gutsy filly who should handle conditions.
Then we will all have another reason to muse over Keane’s talents in the saddle.