Steve Hughes has two selections for the Curragh leg of Irish Champions weekend
I imagine this is what the authorities had in mind when they put together Irish Champions weekend a few years ago. Top class racing with big fields throughout. Four Group 1 contests form the centrepiece of the card and I have selections from the two races open to older horses. Sir Ron Priestley was placed for the each-way bet yesterday (advised 11/1).
Curragh 2.25: Soldiers Call
Although he is without a win in 2019, Soldiers Call has run with great credit in some of the top sprints and representing the 3yo generation that has dominated the sprint scene, he can come good at Group 1 level here.
He is a horse all about early speed and pace usually lasts at the Curragh, especially on decent ground. He put in a career best effort to chase home Battaash in the Nunthorpe last time having made most and does not have to take on that superstar today.
He was well beaten here behind Soffia in July, but did have an excuse in that he lost a shoe. Given he was a good third in the Kings Stand at Royal Ascot prior to that, his run was definitely below par here and should not be taken at face value. In a contest where maybe only Caspian Prince will taken him on up front, I take Soldiers Call to make most.
Curragh 4.10: Cross Counter
The winner of the 2018 Melbourne Cup, Cross Counter has had a decent season chasing the big staying pots this season. However I think he is a slightly quicker horse than one for the marathons and can prove it in the Irish Leger.
Although over 2m the Melbourne Cup is often won by the horse with the best turn of foot and that is how the selection won last year. The Dubai Gold Cup also places an emphasis on speed and Cross Counter showed plenty of that to win at Meydan in the spring.
Ascot’s Gold Cup is run over 20f and James Doyle rode him with extreme restraint to get the trip, leaving him too far out of his ground to challenge Stradivarius. That said he probably is not a strong enough stayer anyway at that trip. He was again beaten 2l by the same horse at Goodwood but back down another 2f here, that ability to quicken up will come more into play.
1pt each-way – Soldiers Call – 2.25 Curragh – 11/2 general
1pt win – Cross Counter – 4.10 Curragh – 11/4 Betfred, Totesport