Irish Eyes: King Kong
Fresh from collecting with both selections last week our Irish Eyes column previews today's fare from Cork and Leopardstown.
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The Irish Flat Season, on the turf at least, concludes this afternoon with a very decent card at Leopardstown. It seems fitting that last night's 'Magician', Aidan O'Brien will wrap up the year with a winning nap in the form of the hitherto undefeated Mekong River in the Eyrefield Stakes.
Some would argue that Aidan will need to wave his magic wand again today if Mekong River is to win in Listed company. His three runs to-date have not exactly screamed 'I'm a black-type horse, get me out of here' and he certainly does not carry the same profile as your typical unbeaten Ballydoyle inmate. In fact, his career to-date has been punctuated with various incidents that might have you believe he has been 'getting away with it' thus far.
A heavily backed favourite on his first start at Gowran, he was in fact beaten only to get the race in the stewards room. His next start was in a Killarney nursery where he sported cheekpieces in a three-runner event. Having led and being niggled along, he briefly looked in trouble as he was joined by Zahan, only to go on again near the finish.
On his third start, he sported a first time visor and again, he went to Co. Kerry for a nursery, having only gone up six pounds from his previous win. This time, at Listowel, he was niggled along at various stages and looked in big trouble before a gap opened up the rails and he ultimately ran out a good one-length winner. Today, he sports first time blinkers!
His overall profile may not encourage one to go in short however his recent work has been very impressive and he is a deceiving horse that is improving all the time. The blinkers/visions/cheekpieces are merely aids to help a lazy horse keep going forward - make no mistake, this horse that lacks neither courage nor ability. So much so in fact, that should he win today, the plan is to run him in the final European Group One for two-year-olds this season, the Critérium de Saint-Cloud.
Down in Cork, Wise Oscar gets the each-way vote in the feature Cork Grand National. He is certainly not one who is hiding anything from the handicapper as he makes start number 40 off a career high mark of 130. One negative for his is that he is only a small horse and he struggled to cope with this mark on his last two starts in the Kerry and Munster Nationals.
That said, they were over three miles (and one was on unsuitable good ground) whereas today's event is over three and a half, a trip which he should arguably be much more effective. Wise Oscar stays longer than the proverbial mother-in-law and in fact he was once staying on at the end of a three mile six furlong race. The Dessie Hughes string remains in tremendous order and indeed six of his last ten runners have won or been placed.