Australia goes down under Gatsby pressure

Australia had several zeros taken off his value when he lost out in a hectic finish to the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

Australia had several zeros taken off his value when he lost out in a hectic finish to the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The horse, heralded by trainer Aidan O’Brien as the best he has come across, was expected to use this race as a lap of honour to a glittering stud career.

However, connections must now sit down and have a rethink as to where to go next after The Great Gatsby upset the odds.

An almost unbackable 30/100 favourite in what looked a decent renewal of this Group One contest, Australia was taken on the scenic route by rider Joseph O’Brien to avoid any trouble in running as stable companion Kingfisher and Dermot Weld’s Alkasser set a scorching pace.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan when Australia came wide into the straight and hit the front over a furlong out, but Ryan Moore was winding up The Great Gatsby for a final onslaught.

The combination gradually got the better of the favourite to land the spoils by a neck, with the Jim Bolger representative Trading Leather running his best race for some time finishing third four and a half lengths further in arrears.

Shellshocked

To say that connections of Australia were shellshocked is putting it mildly. They gathered together in a huddle to find an explanation for the defeat but it would appear that racing so wide without any cover did not help the horse.

There is no doubt that he is a high class colt but not in the superstar category. The Champion Stakes at Ascot is now the likely target for Australia. It would be futile dropping him back to a mile for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes where he would encounter the 2000 guineas winner Kingman again, one of the best milers we have seen in many a day.

While all the talk post-race was about the eclipse of the favourite people were inclined to forget that The Great Gatsby is a horse of the highest class and was given a superb ride by one of the best riders in the world at the present time.

He was held up off the pace and cut every corner in delivering his challenge but showed tremendous battling qualities to get up close home.

As a Dante Stakes and French Derby winner the Mastercraftsman colt is now a hot commercial property and a credit to his trainer Kevin Ryan, who left Tipperary to become one of the top trainers across the water.

Ryan nominated The Champion Stakes as a likely target for his charge. At this stage this is looking like being the race of the year as Dermot Weld has also nominated it for Free Eagle, who was a most impressive winner of the Group Three race over a mile and two.

After winning his maiden in scintillating fashion Free Eagle was an odds-on favourite to beat Australia when they clashed as juveniles but came up second best. A stress facture to a foreleg kept him off the track for a year, but vibes from the Weld camp suggested that the Galileo colt was ready for the fray and a big performance was expected.

He certainly did not disappoint, dismantling a respectable field with consummate ease. Given time to find his feet, Free Eagle galloped all over his rivals before the home turn. Once jockey Pat Smullen released an inch of rein he went right away to win by seven lengths from Elleval.

Smullen made no secret that he considered Free Eagle as the best horse he has ever sat on. The race will bring him on the proverbial ton, so many questions could be answered at Ascot next month.

John F. Kennedy proved to be a bright light on a dark day for the Aidan O’Brien team when he showed that he is going in the right direction when landing the Group Three Juvenile Stakes in good fashion.

After suffering an unexpected reverse on his debut, the son of Galileo bolted up at The Curragh. This was a further step up in grade for him.

An odds-on favourite, John F. Kennedy tracked the leaders early on before hitting the front heading to the furlong marker. Finding plenty of pace, he beat the well-regarded Dermot Weld colt Tombelaine by three and a quarter lengths.

This was a smart display by the winner, who is likely to be seen in the Dewhurst Stakes.

Billy Lee, who rides as second jockey to Tommy Stack and David Wachman, showed why he is in such demand by landing the Group One Fillies and mares stakes with Fiesolana, giving former Kildare footballer Willie McCreery his first victory at the highest level.

Coming between horses in the straight, Fiesolana showed an impressive change of gear to take the lead inside the final 100 yards and deny the English-trained favourite Rizeena by half a length.