Despite giving weight, New Bay each-way value in Irish Champion

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

September 9th, 2016

With all due respect to the classic St Leger (G1) at Doncaster, the most interesting race in the world on Saturday will be held across the Irish Sea at Leopardstown. The Irish Champion (G1), over 1 1/4 miles, is overflowing with quality. It's also a fascinating betting race as, to these eyes, there's no clear standout.

Much of the wagering support will center on Epsom (G1) and Irish Derby (G1) winner Harzand and the filly Minding, a dual classic winner herself who has won six Group 1 contests altogether in an illustrious career. More significantly, Harzand will carry 126 pounds, seven pounds less than his older rivals, while Minding's age and sex allowance will give her a 10-pound concession from the older males.

The last 10 runnings of the Irish Champion have not been kind to the older males required to carry 133 pounds under the weight-for-age scale. During that span, three-year-olds have prevailed six times, while two mares were among the four older runners that won. Only defending titlist Dylan Thomas (2007) and So You Think (2011) carried top weight into the winner's circle.

As a general proposition, this fact shouldn't be too surprising as the continent's very best three-year-olds are often whisked to stud after their sophomore seasons. What's left, although very good sometimes, are often unable to concede that kind of weight against the very best of the following year's classic generation.

Harzand and Minding will take some beating, but I'm not ready to give up the belief one of the older males in Saturday's race could come out on top. To me the most intriguing of these is the French invader NEW BAY (#3), whose lone misstep in nine previous outings came in the Prix d'Ispahan (G1) in May. Contested over very heavy ground and won in runaway fashion by Japanese star A Shin Hikari, New Bay was beaten 15 lengths for it all but only five for second. Hero of last year's French Derby (G1), New Bay subsequently rebounded to take the Prix Gontaut-Biron (G3) at Deauville on August 15, his fifth win from nine starts.

Although the Irish Champion will be his first venture outside France for trainer Andre Fabre, New Bay held his own against Europe's best last fall in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) at Longchamp, finishing 2 1/4 lengths behind fellow three-year-old Golden Horn and only a neck behind the older Flintshire, who has done some pretty nice things in the U.S. this term.

Again, the weight concession will be tough to overcome and he faces unfamiliar terrain at Leopardstown (his first left-handed track), but New Bay should offer plenty of value. He's my each-way bet and I'll box him in an exacta with Harzand.

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