JULY sunshine has come and gone, hay across the country is now safely stashed away for the rainy winter days.
The early foals no longer have any interest in their mothers and it seems the summer of 2020 is slipping away. Meanwhile, we continue to be bombarded with negative news reports, colourful lists and adapting restrictions galore – isn’t it easy to lose all concept of time?
On Wednesday afternoon, news emerged that reminded this racing head that Autumn is on the horizon. The Galway Festival begins next Monday - Goodwood on Tuesday but it was the announcement that Irish Champions Weekend and the Listowel Harvest Festival will be held behind closed doors that really got me thinking – will we see any crowds back racing in 2020?
To put this into context, the Listowel Harvest Festival is worth over €20 million to the local economy each year in a rural region of Ireland where jobs rely on seasonal events to carry them through off-peak times.
Realistically, we knew this was on the horizon but until confirmation filters through, there was always a small glimmer of hope – especially as British racing are trialling a crowd of 5,000 people on the final day of the Goodwood Summer Festival next week and France have permitted 5,000 to attend race meetings since last week.
Ireland and Irish Racing continue to navigate this crisis with caution and while that is a perfectly understandable approach, it doesn’t make our precarious position any less frustrating.
Enough of the political natter – what can we expect on the track this weekend?
The King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes is always a midsummer highlight that introduces the star three-year-olds to their older contemporaries for the first time. Unfortunately, this year there isn’t a single entry from the classic generation! In fact, there was only eight entries for the race this year: six for Aidan O’Brien and two for John Gosden.
Just last year, Enable and Crystal Ocean provided us an epic battle at a sun-soaked Ascot with subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Waldgeist finishing third, well ahead of the three-year-olds. This year we don’t have the depth in numbers but with only two stables represented, this is sure to be an enthralling tactical battle.
Now a six-year-old, Enable shouldn’t be getting any better. Finishing second to Ghaiyyath in last month’s Coral Eclipse at Sandown was a brilliant seasonal debut, one that saw her finish ahead of Japan and Magic Wand.
Tactics or not, Enable remains the best equine female on the planet and until she’s dethroned, I find it impossible to see anything deny her a record third win in this race.
Elsewhere, Elarqam features amongst a strong field in tomorrow’s Group 2 York Stakes over 10 furlongs along with classy contenders Aspetar, Fox Champion, King Of Comedy and Regal Reality.
The harsh reality is that this race is very similar in conditions to Sunday’s Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh.
Many of the aforementioned horses would be live contenders in Group 1 company, however, due to travel restrictions and quiet simply convenience, the Irish showpiece only managed to attract one British entry – Telecaster of Hughie Morrisson’s.
That said, putting convenience and restrictions aside, the Tattersalls Gold Cup is by far the more lucrative option never mind the fact it’s much more prestigious. The winners of the York Stakes on Saturday will receive £31,191 while the Tattersalls Gold Cup is worth €147,500 to winning connections.
It’s difficult to predict what team Ballydoyle will run on Sunday but if Joseph O’Brien decided to run his consistent performer Buckhurst, he would be a very attractive each-way option at bigger odds.
I’m not suggesting Buckhurst has the class of a Magical or Japan but I do think this son of Australia excels over 10 furlongs and was a resolute winner of the Alleged Stakes over course and distance last time when he beat Sir Dragonet.
One would have to admire the consistency of this horse too, from his eight career starts, he has only finished out of the first two placings once. Maybe he’s a live option without the favourite?