Jamie Spencer optimistic of success on Irish Champions Weekend
SATURDAY – Leopardstown
I’m travelling over to Ireland this afternoon with Kevin Ryan for what should be a cracking weekend’s racing. The Irish Champion Stakes at 5.45pm in which I ride The Grey Gatsby looks a great race. This will be the third time that we’ll be taking on Golden Horn and we’re still trying to find a way to beat him, but obviously it looks like Gleneagles is going to run which adds a new dimension to the race. We just have to hope most of the rain stays away.
The way Golden Horn pulled at York in the Juddmonte International I’m amazed he had the energy to finish second. He pulled so hard for six furlongs that if he had won it would have been one of the greatest performances you’d have ever seen. You just can’t pull like that and expect to win. He’ll have to settle better today so it will be interesting to see how Frankie rides him. I know the freshness will be off as he had a spin on the racecourse the other morning. He didn’t charge like that in The Derby although he was a bit keen in the first furlong. He needs to save a bit of his energy.
You don’t know what to expect from Gleneagles. Obviously he’s the best three year old miler but this trip is a different test for him and he hasn’t run since Royal Ascot. He’s missed a few races through ground and whatnot so it will be interesting to see him race again. On pedigree there should be no stamina issues if you ask me as he’s by Galileo out of a Giant’s Causeway mare.
I don’t think there will be much between Free Eagle and The Grey Gatsby. Free Eagle has obviously had a break but you also have to take into account that he’d had a couple of setbacks before the Prince of Wales so maybe he didn’t arrive at Royal Ascot as well as Dermot Weld would have liked. I should have beaten him with a clear run on The Grey Gatsby at Royal Ascot so if Free Eagle improves a bit on that run there won’t be much between them.
If all the rain arrives and the ground turns softish it won’t be ideal for The Grey Gatsby. Leopardstown will take the rain better than The Curragh so hopefully it won’t get too soft. Good ground or just the easy side of Good would be OK as perhaps Gleneagles then wouldn’t run and The Grey Gatsby would still be able to perform. We’ll just have to see.
I’m not riding in the Matron Stakes but I was very impressed with the turn of foot that Legatissimo showed in the Nassau at Goodwood. She really quickened up well. You couldn’t but be impressed with her. Amazing Maria has won her two Group 1s and a Group 2 at Ascot and she’s been improving all the time. It was probably her best performance last time in France. I just think Legatissimo is unlucky not to be unbeaten. She got nodded in the Oaks and she only just got beaten in Ireland, and she’s won the Guineas and at Goodwood. If fortune had been in her favour she could be going into this race having won four Group 1s in a row.
I ride Gabrial’s King in the 4.40pm. I’ve won a few races on him over the years. It’s a bit pot so it’s well worth Richard sending him over to have a crack at winning it. He’ll have a squeak. In the last race at 7.20pm I’m on Withernsea. I haven’t ridden him before but it’s a 150,000 euro handicap so we’ll be doing our best.
SUNDAY – The Curragh
On Sunday at The Curragh I ride George Bowen for Richard Fahey in the 2.00pm. I was due to ride Master Speaker in the race but Richard told my agent that he was keen on his horse. It’s an improving three year old in a handicap against a lot of exposed horses so hopefully he can find another few pounds and have a chance.
There is no hiding place for horses at The Curragh. You very rarely see a race nicked because it has a stiff finish and especially in these big field handicaps they get racing a fair way out, so it takes a good horse to get home at The Curragh. I know the track well, so I look forward to riding there.
In the Flying Five at 3.05pm I ride Maarek who I won on at Beverley two weeks ago. I like Maarek. Obviously the five furlongs at The Curragh is not anywhere near as stiff as Beverley but it is still quite stiff. If he can just keep on their coat-tails he’ll be coming home strong. A friend of mine who I spoke to this afternoon said it was raining quite hard in Kildare so the ground should be on the easy side. That will suit him and he’ll be coming home strongly. If he can keep tabs on them then I think he’ll take a piece of the action and it would be great if he could win too. Moviesta was very impressive last time but it depends how much rain falls. Take Cover only just got nailed at Goodwood and always runs his race. It’s a very open race. I couldn’t really pick one that I fear.
In the Irish St Leger at 4.50pm I’m on Second Step. You’re always buoyant with your own horse but I think he’s a good horse and for me he has the best form going into the race. He beat Telescope at Newmarket and everybody was saying Ryan went too soon but at the end of the day it’s in the book, he beat Telescope. With Luca’s first time out, having not run since the 7th October, they are always going to improve for the run. So he wouldn’t have been at concert pitch that day either. He then ran a good second at Newmarket with a penalty behind my horse The Big Orange. I think he then took his form to a new level when I rode him for the first time in Germany the other day. He beat the German Derby winner and Ito in second is a good horse. Going up in trip another two furlongs can make a difference. He’s a big relaxed horse and in Germany I was always chasing him during the race and I never thought he was going to win, and then in the last couple of furlongs he picked up and made up five or six lengths. The Irish St Leger is over one mile and six furlongs so everything will happen that little bit slower. He’s out of a Saddler’s Wells mare and by Dalakhani so the trip shouldn’t worry him and it was easy ground when he won a listed race at The Curragh last year so track and ground won’t worry him. He’s won on all ground. I think he could be a classy horse over this longer distance.
I only picked up the ride on Second Step in Germany because Andrea got a big ban in the King George so couldn’t ride him. In fact I wasn’t the first choice replacement as James Doyle was then going to ride him but Godolphin claimed him to ride in France. I’d ridden Purple Moon for the owner Craig Bennett before and the week before I’d ridden a maiden winner for Luca so you never know what’s around the corner. Luca seems to have a good bunch of horses and they’re running well. I rode a winner for him on Thursday.
I then ride Sunnua in the big Sales Race at 5.25pm and I don’t know much about her. In the last at 5.55pm I ride Ralph Beckett’s The Green Light. That will have a chance. It would obviously like the ground to get a bit of juice in it as he’s by Authorised. Ralph texted me on Thursday about riding it and the fact he’s sent the horse over for a 150,000 euro race suggests he fancies it.