Can Cirrus Des Aigles Be Crowned King Of Coronation Cup

Cirrus Des Aigles heads the betting ahead of the Coronation Cup on Saturday at Epsom in a race in which the last five market leaders have ridden to victory. I examine whether the odds are stacked correctly in his favour.

Aidan O’Brien has made the Group 1 Coronation Cup his own in recent years courtesy of seven victories during the last nine years, including St Nicholas Abbey, who won it for the last three seasons. However, with the late defection of O’Brien’s Ruler Of The World from Friday’s race, it may well be that the Ballydoyle maestro misses out on winning this year’s renewal, named in commemoration of St Nicholas Abbey.

If O’Brien is to win it, then he’ll be hoping his 20/1 shot, Ernest Hemingway, pulls something special out of the bag, having won only a couple of Group 3’s to date. Then there is the question of recent form, as he was last seen finishing eighth in Dubai in March.

One with no question marks regarding recent form, however, is the current 10/11 favourite, Cirrus Des Aigles, who makes his belated debut at Epsom as an 8yo and arrives off the back of a Group 1 success in France a fortnight ago (1m1f, soft).

That victory not only made it his fifth Group 1 win – and 15th Group race success in total – but also proved he was still at the top of his game. As a winner of the 2012 Dubai Sheema Classic when beating none other than St Nicholas Abbey by 1/4l, he is without doubt the class act who will take all the beating if handling the unique contours of the Epsom Downs.

But, Friday’s renewal is certainly no “one-horse race”, as Andre Fabre’s, Flintshire (7/2), makes a good supporting cast, and represents a trainer who certainly knows how to win this race having captured it on six occasions.

With Cirrus Des Aigles officially rated 123, Flintshire isn’t too far away form him off 120, and was a Group 1 winner over 1m4f back in France last summer on good ground. Although things didn’t go his way in the Arc when last seen, he was hampered that day before staying on into eighth (of 17) and is without doubt a real class act.

The question has to be his absence since the Arc, especially as 17 of the last 18 Coronation Cup winners all raced during the previous three months, and while he has reportedly done well over the winter, he has also been slow to hand this season.

Similar comments apply to Talent (7/1), who returns to the scene of last year’s famous Oaks victory over C&D. Ralph Beckett’s filly lost no caste in defeat when placed in two further Group 1’s last term, but has not been seen since. It’ also worth noting, however, that females have a poor record in the Coronation Cup, as the last to triumph was 30 years ago.

The German challenge comes via the 4yo colt, Empoli (9/1), who was a dual Group1 runner-up back home last term and no doubt has the ability to get involved. His last effort was a career best when beaten just 2l in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March, and considering he was only 1l behind Cirrus Des Aigles that day, Empoli has to rate excellent each-way value to make the frame.

As for the bigger prices, then Roger Varian’s 5yo mare, Ambivalent (12/1), won a Group 1 in Ireland last summer (1m2f), and showed she was in form when landing a Group 2 last month (1m2f). She has won over 1m4f, but once again, she is a female, who as noted previously, have struggled in this race.

With five of the last renewals of this race going the way of the market leader, the omens looks good for Cirrus Des Aigles to improve that sequence for favourite backers, especially as the forecast deluge of rain on Saturday will suit.

Here are the full trends covering the last 18 winners…

All 18 winners were males – the last winning-female was 30 years ago; the well fancied Look Here & Sariska both sunk in recent seasons.
All 18 ran over 1m2f-1m6f last time.
17 raced during the past three months – only Soldier Of Fortune made his reappearance. Thirteen arrived via the World Cup meeting in Nad Al Sheba, the Jockey Club Stakes, the Ormonde Stakes, or the Curragh.
17 made the top three of a Group 1.
16 won a Group race over 1m4f or further.
15 were 4-5yo’s.
14 were ridden from the front or prominently – front-runners especially have a tidy record winning six times.
14 were drawn middle to low.
Aidan O’Brien trained seven of the last nine winners, while Sir Michael Stoute sent out his third in 2009, and Godolphin bagged a pair. Looking further back, Andre Fabre boasts a good pedigree with six winners.