Billy Lee in pursuit of Ebor and Group One glory this weekend

Wednesday return on the cards for injured Colin Keane

Billy Lee takes time out from his pursuit of Ireland’s jockey’s championship to chase international big-race glory this weekend. Lee’s link with trainer Paddy Twomey has yielded Group One glory with La Petite Coco already this season, and the partnership bids for more top-flight success when Rosscarbery takes on Australian superstar Verry Elleegant in Sunday’s Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville, France. The €250,000 race is live on Sky Sports Racing with an off time of 2.50pm.

Before that the Lee-Twomey team will try to land Europe’s richest handicap, the Sky Bet Ebor at York, with the long-time favourite Earl Of Tyrone. Winner of his last three starts, including Limerick’s Martin Molony Stakes last time, Earl Of Tyrone also carries the Rosscarbery colours of owner Robert Moran. He is one of half a dozen Irish hopefuls in the 22-runner contest worth half a million sterling.

Joseph O’Brien saddles both Benaud and the well-fancied Okita Soush,i who will have Mikey Sheehy’s 3lb claim to help him.

While Lee is on his travels his rival for the jockey’s title, Colin Keane, won’t be able to extend his slender lead in the table. The triple-champion jockey hurt his wrist in a spill at Roscommon on Monday, and expects it will be Wednesday before he returns to action. “Hopefully I’m aiming to be back on Wednesday. It’s just a strain on the wrist, so I’m giving it a chance basically.


“Nothing is broken. Talking to the doctors, we said we’d give it a few days just to get over it. It seems to be coming back around now, so all going we’ll be in Bellewstown Wednesday evening,” Keane said on Friday.

He currently leads Lee by just two winners, 68 to 66.

Lee’s focus will be resolutely on quality on Sunday where Rosscarbery gets another shot at a Group One. A supplementary entry into June’s Pretty Polly looked to have paid off perfectly when she filled third place behind her stable mate La Petite Coco. The outcome of an investigation and appeal into her subsequent disqualification for weighing in light still awaits.

Her task this time is to overcome the Melbourne Cup heroine Verry Elleegant, an 11 time Group One winner in her native Australia, who makes her first European start in the Romanet. Frankie Dettori takes the ride on a mare now in the care of leading French trainer Francis-Henri Graffard.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is Verry Elleegant’s ultimate aim in October, and she will face seven opponents on Sunday including the Irish hope.

In other news Dermot Weld has confirmed his brilliant Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Homeless Songs is on course to contest next month’s Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. Quick summer ground conditions have prevented Homeless Songs from running since her classic triumph but she promises to be one of the stars of the upcoming Irish Champions Weekend action.

“She is progressing nicely and the present plan is to run her in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown,” Weld indicated on Friday.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column