Racing

Put your hat on Panama charge

Neville Ring

KINGFISHER could earn himself a shot at the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot with a prominent showing in Leopardstown’s Séamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes this evening.

Runner-up in last season’s Irish Derby behind Australia, the Galileo colt spent the rest of his three-year-old career as a pacemaker for his esteemed stable companion, predictably finishing down the field in the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes.

He made a pleasing start to the new campaign when fourth behind Forgotten Rules in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan, and trainer Aidan O’Brien is keen to find out whether his charge is a realistic contender for the staying showpiece in Berkshire later this month.

“He has progressed well,” said O’Brien.

“We’re thinking of the Gold Cup and trying to get him to slow down and relax. We were very happy with his run in Navan.

“If he runs well [on Friday] he could go to the Gold Cup.”

Kingfisher is one of 10 declared runners for the Saval Beg, with Andy Oliver’s Panama Hat, Sabrina Harty’s Kalann and Aklan, from the stable of champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins, among his rivals.

I’m prepared to see Kingfisher put in an improved performance from Navan but would much rather have Panama Hat to finish ahead of him this time.

There was only a short head separating them in fourth and fifth place, with Sir Ector finishing third. All three are players tonight – Panama Hat will do for me.

But this is a race in which fillies have done well for themselves in recent years, winning four of the last five runnings. Last year’s winner Missunited beat Shue Lewis by three-parts-of-a-length and that runner-up tries again in a race which is not as strong as it was 12 months ago.

Listed honours are also offered for the King George V Cup, a-mile-and-a-half three-year-old only contest – and a weak one at that.

O’Brien is double-handed, with the experienced Cradle Mountain joined by course-and-distance-winning stable companion Bondi Beach.

The latter narrowly beat stablemate Bantry Bay on debut and the form stands up with the runner-up having since gone one better at the Curragh.

“He doesn’t show a lot at home but is a different horse on the track. He loves to be held on to and I’d say we’ll do that again with him,” said O’Brien.

Dermot Weld’s hat-trick seeker Radanpour, the John Oxx-trained Fairyhouse scorer Blue Paraiba and David Wachman’s Clonmel winner Wooden Heart all feature in the mile-and-a-half heat.

Radanpour, a very easy winner at Gowran after taking his maiden at Tipperary, ought to be good enough.

No Ballydoyle runners in the mile three-year-old maiden which looks a gift for Weld’s Manitobian, runner-up to Ger Lyons’Azzuri at Roscommon.

John Oxx likes this race having taken it on four occasions over the last six years. He runs the 84-rated Frozen Lake which would have to improve to beat the favourite.

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