The big names have all stood their ground for the five Group 1 races and the strong supporting cards on Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown and the Curragh on Saturday and Sunday.
Dual 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill and his stable companion Winter, the dual 1,000 Guineas winner and more recently successful in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood head the 14 horses remaining in the €1.25m QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday. Aidan O'Brien's pair could be joined by Poet's Word, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, another that won at Goodwood last month, Martyn Meade's Eminent, successful at Deauville last time out and the Roger Charlton-trained Decorated Knight, the winner of the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May.
There are also 14 horses going forward for the Group 1 Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes including Ballydoyle's star filly Winter. The John Gosden-trained Persuasive and Jean-Claude Rouget's Qemah finished second and third to Alice Springs in the race 12 months ago and are both on course for a repeat bid for the €350,000 contest. Wuheida, a Group 1 winner as a two-year-old could run for Charlie Appleby while Sea Of Grace is clearly on the upgrade and could carry the hopes of William Haggas.
Order Of St George and Big Orange head the 22 horses remaining in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger at the Curragh on Sunday. There was only a short-head between the pair in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, with Michael Bell's charge denying Aidan O'Brien's star stayer a repeat success in that race. Dartmouth could yet represent Sir Michael Stoute while last year's winner Wicklow Brave, trained by Willie Mullins and Joseph O'Brien's exciting three-year-old Rekindling also stand their ground.
Eleven horses remain in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes with Aidan O'Brien looking to hold the strongest hand. He is responsible for five horses, including the recent Newmarket Group 2 winner Clemmie. O'Brien could also be represented by Magical and Happily which finished first and second in the Group 2 Breast Cancer Research Debutante Stakes over this course and distance last month. Jessica Harrington could yet run her dual winner and narrow Albany Stakes runner-up Alpha Centauri while Eddie Lynam's impressive course winner Muirin is also in the mix.
Heading the field of 18 acceptors for the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes are the O'Brien-trained Gustav Klimt, so impressive when overcoming trouble in running to win a Group 2 at Newmarket in July and Gordon Elliott's Beckford, winner of the Group 2 GAIN Railway Stakes over six furlongs at the Curragh in early July and runner-up in the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes over the same course a month ago. Jim Bolger has three horses to choose from including Verbal Dexterity which was runner-up to Beckford in the Railway Stakes.
Pat Keogh, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse, said: “It is great to see the quality of the racing over the two days of Longines Irish Champions Weekend. It is promising to be another great sporting occasion.”
Derek McGrath, CEO of the Curragh Racecourse, said: “We look forward to welcoming visitors to what is building up to be an exceptional weekend of world class racing. The Curragh is in great condition and tickets are still available as we countdown to the crowning of champions on day two of Longines Irish Champions Weekend.”
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