Gary O'Brien: My tips for Irish Champions Weekend
In his weekly Betway blog, the Irish racing broadcaster previews the racing at Leopardstown and The Curragh this weekend.
The opening contest (13:30) is a good race for two-year-olds. I was very impressed with Easy when she won first time up for Andy Slattery and she has since joined Paddy Twomey. The outside stall is a bit of a negative over 7f here, but she has the potential of some star quality.
Sheyya hasn’t run for 100 days since her course-and-distance debut victory, where she wasn’t fancied to win. I spoke to Johnny Murtagh afterwards and he was surprised, so there must be a fair bit more to come from her.
The first of the big handicaps (14:05) looks very competitive and the draw could be a big advantage here. I’m A Gambler is drawn in stall 1 and has a good berth to get out and have it his own way. But last year was won by a wide draw and I’d like to think it could happen again.
Markaz Paname has done very little wrong in his short career to date and has looked good on both starts this season. He’s got a very wide draw but if he can overcome that, he must have a great chance.
The Champions Juvenile Stakes (14:40) looks between the two Aidan O’Brien horses with Ryan Moore siding with Auguste Rodin , who got off the mark at Naas in good fashion in July. Tower Of London has only run once which was a course-and-distance victory here in July and he could anything, but the preference is for the twice-raced Deep Impact colt.
The 1m4f Group 3 contest (15:10) is very competitive. Thunder Kiss was only beaten a neck in this race last year and should be in the thick of it again after a good run in the Pretty Polly. Point King has won three from three this season, but I’m not sure his form is of the highest order, so I’ll be siding with Earl Of Tyrone , who has been great this season. He’s brought his A-game to every race this campaign and his third in the Ebor last time was a great run.
The feature race is the Irish Champion Stakes (15:45), and what a race this looks to be. I was really impressed with Vadeni , who won a tactical race in the Eclipse last time. I feel he won with a little more in hand and is the one they have to beat here. Christophe Soumillon won this race a few years back on Almanzor and I suspect he’ll give Vadeni a similar style of ride here.
For me, the jury is still out on Luxembourg who, although he won last time, was way below the standard needed to be winning a race of this magnitude. That’s not to say he won’t come forward for that run. Of the others, Onesto is a horse I like, but this test might be a bit sharp for him.
Boundless Ocean (16:20) has not looked back since being allowed to bowl along, especially back down over a mile and it looks likely he’ll be doing that again. I think it’s brought our more improvement in him and if he gets his own way again, he could be tough to catch. Jadoomi won the Celebration Mile recently, but I’m not sure that it was the best renewal and would have to step up again.
Just Beautiful is the unknown quantity in the race. It’s her first start after such a long layoff and with a slight concern on the ground, she could be best watching this time, but she clearly has ability.
The other Group 1 on the card is the Matron Stakes (16:55). Dermot Weld’s yard are in much better form than they have been all season and the fact that Homeless Songs has managed to win her trial and the Guineas whilst the yard was under a slight cloud is testament to her raw ability.
She is just very, very good and with everything in her favour, she is the one to beat. Saffron Beach is a filly who I’ve got plenty of time for and she won’t make it easy for Homeless Songs, but the favourite does look like she’s a touch out of the ordinary.
The last race is a fiercely competitive handicap (17:30). My Mate Mozzie runs off a mark of 84 and that’s got to make you take a second look at him.
His mark over hurdles is 141, so his mark could be very lenient. Kojin is on a hat-trick for Peter Fahey and has Billy Lee on his back. The draw hasn’t been kind to him but he’s improving plenty.
Moracana has been off since a disappointing run over Guineas weekend but is clearly capable of better.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see One Cool Poet run well off the back of a good win of hurdles last time.
The first race on the card (13:15) is not the type of race I usually love to get stuck into, but I was really taken by Gordon Bennett who was a very impressive course-and-distance winner last time.
He was held up and sliced through the field to win by three and a half lengths and I think it could have been more! He may have got away lightly with a 9lb rise in the weights, he looks seriously progressive and can rack up this hat-trick of wins.
La Petite Coco (13:50) could have run in the Group 1 on Saturday but has come here in an attempt to win back-to-back running’s of this race. She beat Love in this contest 12 months ago and there is nothing of that calibre in this year’s race and with conditions in her favour, she’s the one to beat.
Insinuendo could run a big race after a good run last time, but it would have to be a career best and then some to beat the likely favourite.
Highfield Princess (14:25) is a very worth favourite and she’s hard to oppose on what she’s been doing of late. She’s short enough in the betting though and there might some bigger priced horses with nice place claims.
Romantic Proposal needs to bounce back from a disappointing run last time but has the ability at this level. Ladies Church is another who is progressive and could hit the frame, too.
Meditate (15:00) is the one they’ve all got to beat, and it’d be hard to argue against her. She got spooked by a photographer last time, so she could have won by further and looking at her form, there aren’t many chinks in her armour at this stage of her career.
At a bigger price, Shelton could run a big race. She was a good course-and-distance winner on her penultimate start and a mile might have stretched her last time. This drop back to 7f could help her and she could easily finish in the money.
The National Stakes (15:35) sees the renewal of the rivalry between Aesops Fables and Hans Anderson. Ryan Moore has chosen to rise Aesop’s Fables who won well off a long layoff last time, suggesting there could be more to come.
I’d favour him over his stablemate. Marbaan was a good winner at Goodwood last time and could be the one to chase Aesop’s Fables home.
The Irish St. Leger (16:10) is another cracking contest on what’ll no doubt be a super two days of racing. Kyprios is impossible to knock. He’s done everything right this season. This trip is the bare minimum for him these days though, so I’d keep that in mind.
As a sporting alternative, Raise You is a good option. He’s seemingly turned a corner this season and done very well. Considering he won over a mile at The Curragh last year, he’s done remarkably well now he’s been stepped up in trip he’s really come into his own. He beat Search For A Song last time and can put it up to Kyprios.
There is very little to go on in the Sales race (16:45) but Red Sky At Night went well on his debut and could give a big run at a likely bigger price.
The final event (17:20) of a very busy weekend is another competitive affair that’ll take some winning. The three-year-olds are more enticing that the older horses, with Good Heavens being towards the top of that list.
He has a very wide draw to overcome but he is improving and shouldn’t be discounted. The same can be said for his stablemate, Amortentia , who has a much better draw and might not be far away.
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