Trainer Joseph O’Brien is mob-handed in the 1m 6f Group 3 Irish St Leger Trial at The Curragh on Friday (18:15), with Master Of Reality the clear pick of his four runners.
This Lloyd Williams owned four-year-old gelding won the Vintage Crop in this grade at Navan on reappearance.
Although penalised for that success here and giving weight all-round, Master Of Reality brings strong form into the race.
He was pushed all the way at Navan by Mustajeer, but toughed it out and scored by a neck. The son of Frankel also had re-opposing trio Southern France, Capri and Cimeara in-behind.
While Capri finished three-quarters of a length in front of Master Of Reality next time up when fourth in a Listed affair at Leopardstown, they met on 6lb better terms from Navan.
That rival is now 3lb worse off with him from that run and finished seven lengths behind him off level weights in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
Master Of Reality belied his massive 66/1 starting price when just losing second on the line and beaten about a length by champion stayer Stradivarius.
Gold Cup form sets a clear standard in the context of this lower grade affair.
The Listed race at Leopardstown has also worked out well, with winner Twilight Payment going in again in the Group 2 Curragh Cup here and the runner-up Falcon Eight scoring on Eclipse day at Sandown.
Despite top-weight of 9st 11lb, Master Of Reality still comes out 2lb and upwards clear of his five rivals on adjusted ratings.
With Wayne Lordan once again in the saddle, he appeals most at the 11/4 on offer with Betfair in the Irish St Leger Trial this year.
Capri and Southern France familiar dangers
If the aforementioned Capri was the force of old, then he’d give Master Of Reality plenty to think about.
One of two engaged for Joseph’s father Aidan O’Brien, the five-year-old enjoyed Classic victories when landing the 2017 Irish Derby and St Leger.
Capri has rarely looked the same horse since, however. In nine subsequent starts to his Doncaster defeat of Crystal Ocean and Stradivarius, the son of Galileo has won just once.
Although a game head victor in the Alleged Stakes at Naas, Capri spent much of last season on the sidelines. When he did race, it was invariably over too sharp a trip.
Tests of stamina like this are what Capri needs, but he has more miles on the clock than most, so looks vulnerable.
He also has quite a bit to find on Master Of Reality from the Gold Cup despite being 3lb better off and three-quarters of a mile down in trip.
Southern France was fourth in the Irish St Leger Trial 12 months ago and like Capri doesn’t win many.
Also trained by Ballydoyle maestro O’Brien senior, the four-year-old was two places and 5 3/4 lengths in front of his stable companion in the Vintage Crop.
As Southern France was far from disgraced when chasing home Stradivarius in the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup, he is clearly useful at this level.
A line can be put through his effort in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot where he raced over too short a distance.
Connections turned Southern France out quickly off the back of it and he ran fourth over course and distance again in the Curragh Cup.
His nine-length fourth to Stradivarius in the Goodwood Cup last time out suggests he still has something to find with Master Of Reality.
More to come from progressing Downdraft
If there’s an improver from the other Joseph O’Brien horses in the six-runner field, then it’s probably the in-form Downdraft. This four-year-old Camelot colt is a dual Listed winner on both his last two starts.
Downdraft was sixth to Baghdad in consecutive Royal Ascot handicaps over 1m 4f and finished much closer to that Mark Johnston trained rival this year than last.
Connections decided to pitch him in at Listed level off the back of his second showing in Berkshire. He resumed winning ways at Roscommon, keeping on well to score by three-quarters of a length.
Downdraft then stepped up to this distance for Her Majesty’s Plate at Down Royal and put in a career-best effort to follow-up under a penalty.
After hitting the front when going best inside the final furlong, he went clear and jockey Donnacha O’Brien eased him close home. Downdraft was thus value for more than the three-length winning margin.
This demands more, but the likes of Southern France and Capri are old hands in these stayers’ races and vulnerable to something that can quicken. That makes Downdraft better each-way value at 8/1 with Paddy Power here.
It would be a major surprise to see either Cimeara or the sole three-year-old Eminent Authority get in the mix in this Irish St Leger Trial.
Both are getting weight either through a sex allowance or by virtue of their age, but there’s more to it than race terms.
Cimeara has plenty to find on Vintage Crop and Curragh Cup form with Master Of Reality and Southern France, who is a surprise 7/4 favourite with Betway in this.
The Queen’s Vase form that Killarney maiden winner Eminent Authority represents here looks weak, meanwhile. He still has 7lb to find with Master Of Reality who should win.