Irish Derby winner Santiago starts flat campaign at Navan

Classic champion set to turn out in Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan on Sunday

Seamie Heffernan aboard Santiago wins the 2020 Irish Derby. File photograph: Inpho

Seamie Heffernan aboard Santiago wins the 2020 Irish Derby. File photograph: Inpho

 

Last year’s Irish Derby hero Santiago returns for his first start of 2021 at Navan on Sunday.

Ryan Moore makes the trip to Meath to team up with the classic winner as well as three other spins on the programme for Aidan O’Brien.

Santiago lines up in the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes, an established Ascot Gold Cup trial, with O’Brien stating he hopes the colt can follow in the footsteps of past star stayers such as Yeats and Fame And Glory.

Bookmakers rate Santiago an 8-1 second best in the Gold Cup betting behind the current stalwart of the staying division, Stradivarius.

A handful of opponents take him on this weekend although the prospect of quick, watered ground may not be ideal for any of them.

Baron Samedi rose from a modest official rating of 65 to his current mark of 112 on the back of five wins in a row last year.

That streak culminated in a Group 2 at Longchamp on very testing conditions which he won’t get here.

Santiago too hasn’t faced really fast conditions before. There was an ease when he won the Queens Vase at Ascot before successfully dropping back in trip for his finest hour at the Curragh last June.

Potential Oaks contenders

What he has shown, however, is a level of class that should make him hard to beat in a context like this.

Some potential Oaks contenders are among the 15 lining up for the Salsabil Stakes.

They include Moore’s mount Willow, a daughter of the prolific Grade 1 star Peeping Fawn, who broke her maiden at the third time of asking in Leopardstown last October.

That was over a mile but a step up to middle distances as a three-year-old should enable Willow to come into her own.

The same can be said of Dermot Weld’s Port Sunlight, a daughter of the trainer’s 2016 Derby hero Harzand, who landed her maiden at Gowran in good style.

She holds Oaks entries at Epsom and the Curragh and looks a type to step up significantly at three.

Lipizzaner wound up his juvenile campaign with a decent run on fast ground at the Breeders Cup.

Considering he won at Listed level on a near bog in Doncaster before that he appears versatile in terms of surface. That could prove important in the Listed Committed Stakes under Moore.

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