Tag Archives: The Irish Champion Stakes

Irish Champion Stakes (G1)


Zhukova on her way out to win the Enterprise Stakes last year.

” I’ve been waiting such a long time, looking out for you but your not here.”

It’s Minding we’ll miss, if injury hadn’t curtailed her career she could have blown the season apart and expectation would have been she would have been crowned Queen of Ireland in the Champion Stakes here.

The show goes on and Churchill fills the role as the Ballydoyle number one. The dual Guineas winner has been beaten twice since. The poor run at Royal Ascot is still a mystery but it’s forgotten now after a good return to form in the International at York. He and Barney Roy cut their own throats by having a private battle setting it up for Ulysses  He mightn’t have won but he put in a very solid performance proving he could see out the step up in trip to 10f.

Alas, the race doesn’t have the depth in quality it had last year, a truly exceptional year, it’s still intriguing none the less. That’s down to the presence of Eminent. He put in a cracking effort over this trip in Deauville last time out. He was ridden by Ryan Moore that day and given a soft lead the field couldn’t peg him back. That won’t happen here so will Frankie Dettori in the saddle for the first time take it on or will he sit and wait.

Most likely it’ll be Ken Condon’s Success Days who will set the pace. He a confirmed front-runner who last time out at York in the Sky Bet Stakes just saw it out to win by a nose. He’ll love every drop of rain that falls.

The 2014 winner The Grey Gatsby now trained by Dermot Weld is back. He’s a shadow of the horse who won when beating Australia and it’s more likely Zhukova would give Rosewell House the better opportunity to claim this prize.

Zhukova is a lightly raced five-year old who won the Enterprise Stakes here last year in impressive style. She’s since a G1 winner when she took the Man o’ War at Belmont in May this year. She ran a cracker in July in the Pretty Poly when only tiring in the last furlong and this shorter trip after a nice break will be right up her street.

Decorated Knight is back in Ireland the scene of his last G1 win where at the Curragh he took the Tattersalls Gold Cup also in May. Luck has deserted him since, second to Highland Reel at Royal Ascot was followed by what his trainer Roger Charlton described as a frustrating run in the Eclipse. In the International at York he pulled muscles and in the circumstances ran magnificently to still be involved with a furlong to run.

The Stoute team sends Poet’s Word over instead of Ulysses. He’s three wins from seven, the last being a G3, the Glorious Stakes at Goodwood. He’s on the up and will like Ulysses turn into a nice five-year old. A similar case could be made for Jim Bolger’s Moonlight Magic whose shown flashes of potential never more than last time out when beating Deauville a head here in the Meld Stakes in July.

That leaves Cliffs Of Moher and Taj Mahal, the Ballydoyle supporting actors. The former hasn’t lived up to expectations, sent off as favourite for the Derby where he ran second, he hasn’t yet cut the mustard since running fourth in both the Eclipse and The International.

Taj Mahal went to Chicago where he ran his best race when second to Oscar Performance in the Secretariat Stakes. The winner won last years Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf and is now a triple G1 winner. 66/1 ignores his talent.

Aidan O’Brien hasn’t won Ireland’s premier all age race since So You Think won in 2011. St Nicholas Abbey, Australia, Found (twice) and Minding have all been beaten in this race. Can Churchill end the drought?

Chances are he can but at 11/10 he’s a short price for one whose been beaten at this distance albeit on his only try when caught in a headlock by Barney Roy.

It presents a doubt, enough to take him on, a fit Decorated Knight is interesting on what looks like good to yielding ground however there’s one who’ll love the ground and the track and is trained by a master in Dermot Weld.

And Twelve points go to … … Zhukova

Douze points Zhulova

I can hear Aidan humming on the way home in the car. I’ve been waiting…….

A happy Chris Hayes coming in after winning the Desmond Stakes in July

In The Boomerang Stakes Alexios Konmenos should follow up his win in the Desmond Stakes over course and distance in July.


Irish Champion Stakes:  Zhukova 12/1 ew 

                                            Zhukova and Decorated Knight (RFC)

Boomerang Stakes:        Alexios Konmenos 9/4 win

The Matron Stakes:       Enjoy Winter



Champions Weekend – Day 1

Stellar Mass winning the Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown in August

Stellar Mass winning the Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown in August

A cracking weekends action with the St Leger at Doncaster and The Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. Idaho will travel to Doncaster to be ridden by Seamie Heffernan with Ryan Moore making the trip to Leopardstown to ride Minding.

Doncaster The St Leger

Idaho was a maiden winner first time out last October and didn’t return to the winners enclosure until the Great Voltigeur at York in August. In between he was beaten five times. It was in defeat he proved himself top class, Harzand beat him three times, in the Ballysax, The Derby and Irish Derby. He got closer each time putting up a great fight at the Curragh going down a 1/2 L. He did it very well at York and was an easy winner from stablemate Housesofparliment who reopposes here. As ever there is a question about the trip, will he stay the extra 4 f? At York he looked to have plenty left at the end so you’d be confident he will.


Champions weekend throws up a great card at Leopardstown. The centre piece will be the Irish Champion Stakes with the Matron Stakes, also G1 status, supporting the day. There’s also a top class G2 in the Boomerang Stakes, a tremendous Enterprise Stakes and a very intriguing Juvenile Stakes. Throw in a premier handicap and it’s some days racing.

The Juvenile Stakes

Douglas McArthur and Radio Silence line out for Aidan O’Brien and Jim Bolger. The former was a 5 L winner of a maiden here last time out while the latter went down to the very impressive Churchill in the G2 Futurity. It a good test and both hold lofty entries for the remainder of the season. The winner here will become the outright favourite for next years Derby.

The Enterprise Stakes

A small but select field, Aidan O’Brien is responsible for three of the five runners. US Army Ranger was given a break after Epsom where he couldn’t get to Harzand. He gave it all and was rested until the Royal Whip in mid August. Sent off an even money favourite he ran flat and trailed in fourth beaten 4 L by Success Days.

Bondi Beech before the Desmond Stakes

Bondi Beech before the Desmond Stakes

Bondi Beech, a Leger first past the post last year at Doncaster may struggle over the mile and half.

Stellar Mass and Kevin Manning goes out to win the Ballyroan Stakes

Stellar Mass and Kevin Manning goes out to win the Ballyroan Stakes

Jim Bolger’s Stellar Mass had the measure of Bondi Beech here at the beginning of August in the Ballyroan building on his very good third in the Irish Derby. Zhukova hasn’t been seen since winning the Blue Wind at Nass in May where he beat Pretty Perfect, form that got a timely boost with Pretty Perfect just getting piped by Simple Verse yesterday at Doncaster. Tree Of Knowledge put in a stylish performance winning a Gowran maiden after two previous seconds.

The Matron Stakes

The Irish 1000 Guineas winner Jet Setting renews rivalry with Qemah. In the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot Paul Keatley’s filly went off favourite having beaten Minding at the Curragh but it was Jean-Claude Rouget’s filly who came out on top.  John Gosden sends Persuasive, she’s unbeaten and has improved with every run when stepped up in class. A listed and G3 winner she steps into G1 company for the first time.


Tribal Beat on his way out to win the Ballyroan

Tribal Beat on his way out to win the Desmond Stakes

The Boomerang Stakes

Awtaad the Irish Guineas winner and highest rated in the field has to overcome the disappointment of the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood where he was beaten both times but he’s back on his favoured ground.

Form in the race will revolve around Hit A Bomb, Custom Cut and Tribal Beat who all contested the Desmond Stakes in August. It was the latter on his seasonal reappearance who won the day. Hit A Bomb who also made his seasonal debut tired in the closing stages and will strip fitter for this.

Custom Cut leaves the ring for the Ballyroan

Custom Cut leaves the ring for the Desmond Stakes

Tribal Beat winning the Ballyroan

Tribal Beat winning the Desmond Stakes


The Irish Champion Stakes

Found leaves the ring at Leopardstown

Found leaves the ring at Leopardstown

Minding could have gone the easy route and added another G1 by contesting The Matron. Instead she goes for the big one taking on the colt’s for the first time. She’ll benefit from her sex allowance getting 3 lbs from Harzand, Hawkbill, Almanzor and Moonlight Magic.

Harzand has had a break since the Irish Derby but you know Dermot Weld will have him well tuned for this. It’s interesting to remember when interviewed after the Ballysax in April Pat Smullen thought he’d shape into a Leger horse. It does beg the question will he find the 10f too stiff here in this company?

There’s no doubt on the trip for the French Derby winner Almanzor who also prepped for this winning a G2 at Deauville recently.

Hawkbill so impressive in the Eclipse is on a bit of a retrieval mission having run a stinker at York in the Juddmonte Stakes while Jim Bolger is sweet on Moonlight Magic for a place.

Minding will also benefit from a weight allowance from the older horses. Success Days has to be respected for his win in the Royal Whip and Highland Reel who’s won a Hong Kong Cup and a King George. The fear here for both of them is the trip. You can’t knock Highland Reel last time out in the Juddmonte but was the trip just too sharp at this level?

There’s a lot to like about New Bay who had a quiet prep winning a G3 at Deauville. Last years French Derby winner will again try to win the Arc and that rather than this will be main aim however it’s significant Andre Farbe travels him rather than keeping him at home for one of the trials in Paris.

The Grey Gatsby hasn’t won since beating Australia here two years ago and maybe his best days are behind him. Found on the other hand second here last year to Golden Horn looks to be coming back to her best. She been suffering from a dose of secondiitis but she put in a cracking performance last time out in the Yorkshire Oaks. She might just be too good her stable companion Minding over this trip at this time of year.


Doncaster :        St Leger Idaho 1/1 win

Leopardstown : The Juvenile Stakes Port Douglas, Radio Silence FC

                            The Enterprise Stakes  Stellar Mass 6/1 win

                            The Matron Stakes Jet Setting 7/1 win

                            The Boomerang Stakes Tribal Beat 4/1 win

                            The Irish Champion Stakes Found 10/1 EW





Irish Champion Stakes (G1)

Embed from Getty Images

Picture courtesy of Getty Images and Koji Hirano

Don’t be surprised if the description of Leopardstown ground this morning, good to firm, turns to soft or even heavy by tomorrow morning. The rain in Dublin began to fall around mid afternoon on Friday. By tea time it was enough to turn the ground yielding at Leopardstown. If it continues as predicted by race time we might have had 50mm fall on the track.

Ballydoyle have been consistent in not running Gleneagles on bad ground and although push has come to shove its most likely he’ll be withdrawn. The participation of Golden Horn is also very questionable as his trainer John Gosden has said he’d let him take his chance on a surface no worse than good to soft but if the heavens opened he would walk the course before making a final committment.

If John’s gives the thumbs up after his stroll then Golden Horn will go off an even shorter favourite. His aura of invincibility was blown away at York when going down to Arabian Queen and surely it was the give in the ground that was his downfall. The Derby and Eclipse winner gave his all but that exceptional turn of foot we’d seen at Epsom and Sandown was blunted by the rain-sodden surface.

Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle could well handle it however that is still an unknown. He ran well to be third in the Champion Stakes last year on heavy ground and although it was a very good effort he couldn’t run down Nobel Mission or Al Kazeem.

If Gleneagles come out Coolmore are reliant on Found and Highland Reel. The predicament here is both of them are also fast ground horses.

Found missed the 1000 Guineas because of the ground and was sent to the Curragh to race in lesser company on heavy ground the next day (Aidan was desperate to get a run into her). She was beaten 2L by Iveagh Gardens (not seen since but due to contest the Matron Stakes later on) and then ran second to Pleascach in the Irish 1000 Guineas. She followed up with another second to Ervedya in the Coronation Stakes and a couple of weeks ago beat Answered impressively on a horrible day at the Curragh. It rained as much that day however the rain came late and didn’t get into the ground as it will here.

Highland Reel prospects of handling the surface must be as questionable as Gleneagles. We’ve seen the best of him in his last two runs. At Goodwood in the Gordan Stakes he relished the quick surface and was even happier when rattling home in the Secretariat on Arlington Million day on a rock hard track in Chicago.

Pleascach likewise restored her credentials in the Yorkshire Oaks. Her win in the 1000 Guineas was followed by a defeat by Curvy in the Ribblesdale and a below par run in the Pretty Poly a week later. At York she put that right when getting the better of Covert Love on a good to soft surface.

Last years winner The Grey Gatsby is capable of doing it again. Circumstances have not fallen his way this year however he refuses to throw in a bad run. Third at York in the International, second in the Eclipse and very unlucky not to collar Free Eagle in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes he could once again grind it out as he did last year against Australia.

The forgotten horse is the seven time G1 winner Cirrus Des Aigles. Tough as teak he added the last to his collection when he beat Al Kazeem 2L in the Prix Ganay on very soft ground in early May. He’s run once since when coming last of four in the Prix D’Ispahan (beaten 5 1/2L by Solow) on good ground in late May. He’s a horse who comes into his own in Autumn.

With no sign of an ease in the rain there really can only be one trainer enjoying wine with dinner tonight thinking I’m glad I came. If Corine Barande-Barbe has her star right, and she will, then Cirrus Des Aigles can add an Irish Champion Stakes to accompany the English one he already has. Granted he has to overcome age to make it G1 number eight but his toughness, durability and most importantly his love of the ground give him a shout here way beyond his current price. Don’t expect it to last if the top two defect.

Recommendation: Cirrus Des Aigles 11/1 win 


The Irish Champion Stakes (G1)

Rain. Will it? Won’t it?

If it does how deep will it get into the Leopardstown ground that is now good to firm.

Enough to put some juice in or enough to turn it good to soft?

Roger Charlton put the defeat of Al Kazeem at York in the International down to the fast ground that day and a little bit of freshness from the break since the Eclipse. He will be praying the forecast rain will be heavier than the 10mm predicted. While 10mm will be enough to put some juice in it won’t be enough to put cut in it. Al Kazeem would be best suited to cut.

He’s the only one of the principles who want to see the rain fall. Declaration Of War proved at York the quicker it is the better for him. The same applies to Trading Leather who just fell short in the International. Both loved hearing their feet rattle across the Knavesmire and in the end the 1 3/4 L that separated them at the line might have had more to do with how the race panned out than the ability of the animal.

Kevin Manning took it on and set the pace at York. He had hoped to take the sting out of the others especially the kick of Toranado but in the end there was no need to worry about that as Toranado was already a spent force after two furlongs. The pace was dream like for Joseph O’Brien who just had to sit off it and press the button in time to let his mount time to get into top gear to power to the line. He said in his post race interview it was his fault he got beat in the Eclipse for not giving Declaration Of War the time to wind up.

The Fugue also loved the ground at York in the Oaks. She powered home on the fast proving herself far superior to her own sex and also put the run in the Eclipse well behind her. The drop in trip to 10 f from 12 f against the boys is the concern.

Two Dewhurst winner’s make the line up.

Aidan O’Brien’s has decided to let Kingsbarns take his chance though surely it’ll be some feat to come out and win this on his seasonal debut. He met a setback before the Guineas and  has been given time to recuperate. He was a good winner of the Dewhurst last year on soft ground 17 days after winning his maiden at Navan on a similar surface. If the rain does come he’ll be backed lower than 6/1 on offer now.

Parish Hall when last seen at the Curragh in May

Parish Hall when last seen at the Curragh in May

Jim Bolger’s 2011 winner Parish Hall, second string here, missed the entire campaign last year through injury and though he made a pleasing enough return at the Curragh in April he then ran below expectations in a Group 3 behind Camelot in May. Jim reported him well earlier this week describing him as a horse who would prefer quick conditions. While reticent to say he couldn’t win he was more pointing to the chances of Trading Leather whom he believed would have a better chance if the predicted easier conditions materialise.

Dermot Weld will be loving the news that the rain’s coming. His mare Princess Highway hasn’t sparkled since beating the Fugue 6 L at Royal Ascot last year in the Ribblesdale. Like Al Kazeem she’ll like some cut but form this year has been disappointing. She was beaten 2 1/2 L in the Blue Wind at Naas in May by Euphrasia when that filly sprung a 33/1 surprise (at 100/1 this time she’ll have to spring a threefold one here). At  the Curragh last time in the Pretty Polly she couldn’t handle the firm and was beaten 7 L by Ambivalent. Any deluge will increase her chances.

The form of the Eclipse and International suggests there is little between Declaration OF War, Al Kazeem and Trading Leather. The factor which will influence most is the ground. Kingbarns and Parish Hall are on the comeback mission but were both high quality two year olds. The fillies The Fugue and Princess Highway are more 12 f than 10 f horses.

It’ll come down to the ground and if it’s 10mm of rain then Trading Leather will cope better than the War and both are just that tiny bit classier than Al Kazeem.

Recommenation : Trading Leather 6/1 win