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Versatile Irish Flame overcomes tough passage to land Cup

4 min read
Irish Flame (NZ) possesses all the acknowledged traits of his sire Zed (NZ) with the ability to both sprint and stay and perform on all manner of tracks, but it was the tenacious side of his nature that shone brightest in his Listed Ballarat Cup victory.

The Brett Scott-trained Irish Flame was never closer than three wide off the fence and still had the temerity to repel all-comers under pressure in the straight to triumph in Saturday’s Sportsbet-sponsored featured.

It was a sterling performance from the 6-year-old, who was formerly trained in New Zealand by Scott’s great mate John Wheeler, with whom he chalked up numerous prestige jumping wins during his decorated career in the saddle.

A fall at Yarra Glen in October 2010 ended Scott’s days in the saddle and he turned to training two years later. In 2015, he trained his first black-type winner when Coronation Shallan (Strategic) was successful in the G3 Tesio S. on Cox Plate Day.

It was during his time with Wheeler that Irish Flame stamped himself as a unique son of the Grangewilliam Stud-based Zed (NZ).

“Johnny Wheeler had him in New Zealand right from a yearling and he’s the only Zed to win a 2-year-old race.

“He was a handy horse and ran in the (New Zealand) Derby, but he probably wasn’t good enough,” Scott said.

“He was a handy horse and ran in the (New Zealand) Derby, but he probably wasn’t good enough.” – Brett Scott

Irish Flame was successful in the G3 Taranaki 2YO Classic at his second appearance and went on to win a further five races under the guidance of multiple Group 1-winning trainer Wheeler, who in 2010 was inducted into the New Zealand Hall Of Fame.

The connections of the gelding sent him to Scott’s Mornington stable earlier this year and their decision has been handsomely rewarded.

Irish Flame opened his Victorian career with four placings from his first five appearances before he won at Moonee Valley in October and then gave his owners a major thrill by claiming an undercard handicap at Flemington on VRC Oaks Day.

“Since he’s been in Melbourne every race has been good and he’s improved with every run. He’s just a very good, tough stayer. It’s a great result for the stable,” said Scott, who trains at Mornington.

Irish Flame (NZ) (blue and brown silks)

Withdrawal creates opportunity

Irish Flame was originally stuck on the ballot for the Ballarat Cup, but the withdrawal of Power Scheme (Fiorente {Ire}) gave him his opportunity and he made the most of it.

It was never going to be plain sailing from the outside gate and so it proved with rider Michael Walker unable to get closer than three off the fence.

The pace quickened 600 metres from home when Inverloch (Ire) (Fastnet Rock) went to the front and Irish Flame chased gallantly and got the front in the run home and stayed on determinedly.

“He had a wide gate and he didn’t get any favours in the run. There was a good, solid tempo but he was three wide without cover for pretty much the whole trip,” Scott said.

“There was a good, solid tempo but he was three wide without cover for pretty much the whole trip.” – Brett Scott

“He came off the bridle just before the corner and I thought we might have been in a bit of trouble, but gee, he hung tough.”

Irish Flame is a son of the Thunder Gulch (USA) mare Fleur De L’Orient (NZ), a daughter of Fleur De Chine (NZ) (Centaine), who also won an editionmof the Taranaki 2YO Classic.

Fleur De L’Orient is a sister to the G1 SAJC Australasian Oaks winner Tully Thunder, who is the grandam of the recently retired G1 Australian Derby winner Levendi (Pierro).

Brett Scott with Irish Flame (NZ)

The favourite and home track hope Affair To Remember (Toronado {Ire}) got well back in the running and she burst through late to finish runner-up with Game Keeper (Fastnet Rock) ducking to the inside late to finish third.

There was also plenty of merit in the effort of the topweight Harlem (GB) (Champs Elysees {GB}) to come from well back in the field to run fourth.