Michael Tabor's standout High Chapparal survived a stewards' inquiry to win the Ireland The Food Island Champion Stakes (Ire-I) by a neck over an unfortunate Falbrav Saturday at Leopardstown.
In a race that lived up to its billing, Islington closed out well to be third, just a head farther back. Alamshar, favored at 5-4 in the seven-horse field, was 1 1/2 lengths behind in fourth in the 1 1/4-mile event contested on good to firm going in a time of 2:03.3.
High Chaparral, last year's Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner ridden by Mick Kinane, stormed to the front a furlong or so from the wire and held off both Falbrav and Islington. However, it appeared that High Chaparral may have come over on Falbrav close to home and even before Darryll Holland, Falbrav's rider, could lodge an objection, stewards undertook an inquiry. After their review, the result stood.
It was a nightmare of a trip for Falbrav, 11-4 in the betting, and Holland, who were hampered while racing fifth on the backstretch and lacked any running room on the inside while fourth until the final quarter-mile. Once squeezed through to challenge High Chaparral, Falbrav was slightly hampered again by the winner while finishing well.
Winning trainer Aidan O'Brien was delighted with the outcome and said the 4-year-old son of Sadler's Wells next start should be in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I).
"It's great for the horse to do what he has done today," he told The Racing Post
. "He is a great horse. We knew he had come on since his first run (in the Royal Whip) but we have always felt it would take two runs for him to peak. He has always had loads of pace and he does handle fast ground. But because of the injury he had in the spring we have had to be careful with him. Let's hope he is OK in the morning. All being well the Arc will be his next race."
Falbrav's disappointed trainer, Luca Cumani was noncommital on the 5-year-old's direction.
"This is not the time to be making plans," he said. "I think Falbrav was probably the moral winner but morals do not put bread on the table. I am not going to adjudicate on the stewards' decision but our horse was very unlucky. He got a bump in the back straight and then got no run in the home straight. When he did get an opening and went for the inside the winner came over on him."
The decision did little to detract from an outstanding race in which six of the seven runners had accounted for 17 group I victories.
High Chaparral, sent away at odds of 4-1, was prominent throughout, overcoming an early bump while second behind a strong pace set by France. Moon Ballad, who disputed second with the winner for most of a mile, went past the tiring France three furlongs out to take the lead under Frankie Dettori. He was headed a little more than a furlong from home and squeezed when Falbrav made his move along the inside. Islington, a 16-1 shot who was last early for Kieren Fallon, began to make an impact with a half-mile to go and finished strongly while gaining on the outside of the leaders.
Alamshar, with regular rider Johnny Murtagh returning from a back injury earlier in the week, had no excuse. The 3-year-old, facing elders for the first time, was always in touch, moving into second while pushed along on the inside straight. He was hard ridden in the final furlong but could not match the first three.
Kinane, who won the race for the fifth time, said, "It was a hell of a good race. My horse was competitive from a long way out and I was aware that something might come at me late. My horse did roll a bit but as far as I'm concerned there was always room on my inner for the second horse. The problems Falbrav had through the race had really nothing to do with me."
Moon Ballad was fifth, followed by France and Vintage Tipple.