Roger Charlton is praying the forecast rain at Leopardstown materialises after Al Kazeem set off on the journey to Ireland for today’s Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes.
The five-year-old has enjoyed an outstanding season so far, completing a Group 1 hat-trick with victories in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown. He suffered his first defeat of the campaign when third in a fast-ground Juddmonte International at York and was declared a “doubtful” starter in this weekend’s Group 1 highlight earlier in the week, when similar conditions seemed likely.
However, the weather has since taken a turn for the worse and Leopardstown could be hit by as much as 20 millimetres of rain by race time.
Charlton is taking nothing for granted, though. “Al Kazeem left Beckhampton at 8am this morning (Friday) to start his long journey to Ireland in the hope that there will be some rain at Leopardstown before racing tomorrow evening,” he told his website. “The weather forecast seems to change by the hour and there is a wide range of opinions as to how much they will get. The gun is loaded so fingers crossed yet again.”
In complete contrast, John Gosden’s filly, The Fugue, relishes a fast surface, as she showed when running out a scintillating winner of last month’s Yorkshire Oaks. The four-year-old looked set to get her conditions at the start of the week, but the prospect of heavy rain is clearly a worry for her connections. Gosden said: “She’s very well, but obviously we are watching very carefully what happens (with the weather). Obviously we would be very concerned (if there is excessive rainfall) but things are changing all the time.”
Meanwhile, Reckless Abandon is reported to be lame and will miss today’s Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock. Clive Cox’s three-year-old colt has been restricted to just two runs this term, having finished third in the Temple Stakes on his reappearance at Haydock and fifth in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. However, Cox reports Lethal Force to be ready for action.
His Diamond Jubilee and July Cup hero bids to get back to winning ways after playing second fiddle to Moonlight Cloud a month ago. “Lethal Force is in excellent form and I really hope conditions are suitable for him. I couldn’t be happier with him,” said the Lambourn trainer. “He’s in great nick and obviously he has already proved this year he’s at the top of his game. Hopefully he’ll fly the flag for us.”
Gordon Lord Byron was three-quarters of a length behind Lethal Force when third at Deauville and he was second in this race 12 months ago.
However, he goes to Haydock on the back of a Group 3 success over a mile at Leopardstown and his trainer Tom Hogan is full of hope. “He’s in very good form. He arrived over there on Thursday night and was out on the track on Friday morning,” said the County Tipperary handler. “The rain is fine, but a drop was needed as it would have been very quick if they didn’t get a drop.”
Trainer Eddie Lynam has his fingers crossed Slade Power does not repeat his antics in the stalls that cost him his chance in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York. The four-year-old blotted his copybook after a series of good efforts that included a third place behind Lethal Force in the July Cup. “He’s in good form, I just hope he behaves himself in the stalls and has a good run. He was a bit naughty in the gates the last day,” said the County Meath handler. Hawkeyethenoo has been a decent yardstick in the sprinting division for several seasons and trainer Jim Goldie is hoping the seven-year-old can run up to scratch despite starting from what could be an awkward draw (16).
“He won’t mind a wee bit of rain, but not that much,” said the Renfrewshire handler. “We wouldn’t have picked that draw, but hopefully something will go forward on our side of the track as Lethal Force is in one.”