Cliffs Of Moher must bounce back from Epsom disappointment
Cliffs Of Moher was the leading contender to claim his first major crown at the Epsom Downs following an impressive start to his fledgling career. The Irish horse had won two of his three races ahead of the event and was considered the favourite to win the Investec Derby, with Ryan Moore in the saddle. Aidan O’Brien sent six horses to compete in the race, and although Cliffs of Moher was the spearhead of his challenge for the crown, the three-year-old was beaten out for the crown. Rank outsider Wings of Eagles rose to the occasion with a flawless performance to defeat his stablemate, clinching only the second win of his career.
The result was a disappointment for Cliffs Of Moher and Moore, although he still finished in second place. However, improvements will need to be made for future races, with a number of important meets left in the rest of the campaign, beginning with the Eclipse Stakes at Royal Ascot where the Irish horse will be aiming to channel the spirit of Sadeem, who famously won the Royal Ascot Gold Cup in 1988 in a record time of 4:15.67 on the two-mile, four-furlong track, according to an infographic compiled by sports bookmaker Betway. His average speed will be a vital factor against the top competitors in the field and match the 35mph produced by the great horse 29 years ago.
Better yet boasting the average speed of a greyhound would certainly see the Irish horse over the line, as Taylors Sky recorded at a rate of average speed of 38mph (61.34kph) at the Greyhound Derby in 2011.
It highlights the task ahead of Cliffs Of Moher in his bid to get back to winning ways following his Epsom disappointment.
The bay colt made his debut at the Coolmore Most Improved Maiden in Cork in a competitive field of 15 horses, many of which had experience under their belt before the meet. Despite it being his first appearance on the racecourse, the Irish horse was touted as one of the leading contenders – being backed as low as 4/1 with some bookmakers. Jockey Donnacha O’Brien led Cliffs Of Moher off to a steady start in the early stages of the race to keep him in the middle of the pack. He made a slight move two furlongs out to push into seventh before making a charge down the final straight, but the bay colt lacked the speed to challenge the leaders, finishing in fifth. Spanish Tenor won the race comfortably, ending well ahead of the rest of the field, highlighting the strides needed to compete.
Cliffs Of Moher did not have to wait long for his next race as the Tote E.B.F. in Leopardstown saw him return to action just a fortnight following his debut. Seamie Heffernan took to the saddle on this occasion, with the Irish horse being favoured behind stable-mate Orderofthegarter for the race. However, the bay colt put in a dominant outing as he led the meet from start to finish with an assertive performance down the stretch, finishing comfortably ahead of the rest of the field by five-and-a-half lengths in a time of 1m 27.85s.
Cliffs Of Moher returned to the racecourse of the 2017 season and in his opening race of the term at Chester was considered the favourite for the first time in his career for the Dee Stakes. Moore took to the bay colt’s saddle in a competitive field, featuring Mirage Dancer and Bay of Poets, who are looking to make their mark. However, the Irish horse did not disappoint on his first race on English soil, although he did not get off to the best of starts as he was forced wide in the early stages. The three-year-old began to make a move four furlongs from the finish as Moore guided him into second place with only Max Zoirin ahead of him.
Cliffs Of Moher saw off the challenge posed by the Irish horse and was able to canter towards the finish to claim victory by one-and-a-half lengths in a time of 2m 10.85s.The bay colt was widely tipped to triumph at the Epsom Downs after a three-week rest ahead of the meet. Moore once again took to the saddle and again he did not get off to the best of starts, but managed to recover towards the final throes of the race to move into contention. Cliffs Of Moher was in position to claim the win, but lacked the pace needed to edge out Wings of Eagles down the stretch as the French horse triumphed by three-quarters of a length.
The Irish horse, Moore and O’Brien have little time to dwell on the sight underachievement, although the trainer will have been delighted to see his other charge take the crown. With Sandown on the horizon O’Brien must ensure that the bay colt is at the peak of his powers when faced with the possibility of facing off against his elders in the Eclipse Stakes. Cliffs Of Moher has shown potential in his fledgling career, but anything other than a flawless performance at Sandown will end in defeat.