Alpha Centauri, Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior will be among the stars on show as the Longines Irish Champions Weekend gets under way at Leopardstown on Saturday with eight races and €2.45m in prize-money on offer, including €1.25m for the Group One QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (6:35pm).
The card starts at 3:20pm when a host of promising two-year-old fillies will line up for a €100,000 Listed Race, including one from England, Gospel for trainer Mick Channon. Mick also runs Dan’s Dream in the Group 1 Matron Stakes at 5:25pm.
Willie Mullins has clearly set his sights on the €150,000 Premier Handicap at 3:50pm, his five runners including this year’s Royal Ascot winner Lagostovegas and high-class hurdler, Limini. Willie has won the race twice in the last five years.
Aidan O’Brien has three in the race: the unbeaten Cliffs Of Dooneen, the progressive Astronomer, who won well at Listowel on Monday, and Saracen Knight, who returned from a lay-off to win well at Naas on September 4th. It’s an intriguing contest. After his Listowel win, jockey Donnacha O’Brien felt sure that Astronomer was a Group horse in the making so a high-quality race looks ensured.
Aidan’s Irish Derby runner-up, Rostropovich will be a warm order for the 12-furlong Group 3 race at 4:55pm and all eyes will be on the brilliant Alpha Centauri in the Group 1 Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes at 5:25pm. She has already won four Group 1 races this season for trainer Jessica Harrington.
The second of the Group 1 races, the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (6:35pm) is the feature race of the weekend, the eight-runner field including the Eclipse Stakes and Juddmonte International Stakes winner, Roaring Lion, the English 2,000 Guineas winner, Saxon Warrior, and the French Derby winner, Study Of Man. It’s a race that holds plenty of intrigue.
There was only a neck between Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior in the Group 1 Eclipse, although there were five lengths between them at York in the ‘International’.
Ryan Moore will be jetting in to Leopardstown to ride Saxon Warrior after riding Kew Gardens in the St Leger at Doncaster.
The Irish Champion Stakes is one of the leading races on the European racing calendar. The last ten winners are New Approach, Sea The Stars, Cape Blanco, So You Think, Snow Fairy, The Fugue, The Grey Gatsby, Golden Horn, Almanzor and, last year, Decorated Knight, so it’s quite a list, one that includes six Classic winners.
Given that his Curragh conqueror Kenya will be vying for favouritism in the Group 3 Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes at 6pm, Katiymann may well be popular in the card’s finale, the second of the day’s two €150,000 Premier Handicaps (7:10pm).
Six runners from England add a bit of extra spice to the race. They have won the race three times in the last four years and look to have a strong hand again, not least with John Quinn’s Galway Festival winner Safe Voyage.
In total, eleven runners from England have been declared for the Leopardstown card, including Karl Burke’s French Oaks winner Laurens in the Matron Stakes, Addeybb in the Irish Champion Stakes for William Haggas, who has already had two Group 1 wins in Ireland this season, and, of course, the Irish Champion Stakes favourite, Roaring Lion, who is trained by John Gosden.
It all adds up to a compelling day, one that contains class and competition in abundance.
Selections: 4:55pm – Rostropovich, 7:10pm – Katiymann (e.w)
Alpha Centauri (5:25pm) is too short a price to be given as a selection but you may want to look at the double we are offering on her with Roaring Lion.