Dylan Thomas fought back late to retake the $1.26 million Irish Champion Stakes from Ouija Board at Leopardstown on Saturday in an effort which could propel him to Churchill Downs for either the Breeders' Cup Turf or Classic.
Sent off as the 8-5 favorite in the 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 stakes, the 3-year-old Dylan Thomas tracked the pace of his Aidan O'Brien-trained stablemate, Ace, before cruising to the lead at the three-sixteenths pole. But when the gallant mare Ouija Board took command at the furlong marker, Kieren Fallon got to work aboard Dylan Thomas. He led again at the sixteenth pole and ran out a neck winner with Alexander Goldrun plugging on for third, 2 1/2 lengths behind the 5-2 Ouija Board. The winning time for the 10 furlongs on good to firm ground was 2:02.90.
A close third to Sir Percy in the Epsom Derby, Dylan Thomas proved his liking for 1 1/2 miles with a handy 3 1/2-length score in the Irish Derby over Italian Derby winner Gentlewave on July 2. Next time, however, in his first try against older horses in the 1o1/4-mile, 88-yard Juddmonte International, he finished a dull fourth behind Group 3 winner Notnowcato, suggesting that a step back up to 12 furlongs might be in order.
But with his Irish Champion victory, O'Brien and the Ballydoyle brain trust find themselves in a tough situation, with not only the BC Classic and Turf from which to choose, but the Oct. 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as well.
Ouija Board has long been targeted by her owner, Lord Derby, and trainer Ed Dunlop for a third go at the BC Filly and Mare Turf, while Alexander Goldrun will be aimed by trainer Jim Bolger at the 1 1/4-mile Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp, a race she won as a 3-year-old in 2004 and in which she finished third last year.
* In the Group 1, $317,000 Matron Stakes, Red Evie won for the seventh time in a row when she outdueled Peeress by a head. The recent winner of the seven-furlong Group 3 Oak Tree Stakes covered the mile in 1:38.76 under Jamie Spencer at 6-1. Trainer Michael Bell said that Red Evie would complete her brilliant 3-year-old season in the one-mile, Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes against fillies and mares at Newmarket on Sept. 30.