Longines Irish Champions Weekend: Day one runners and latest news

Thu 10 Sep 2020

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Ghaiyyath will run in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, after pleasing trainer Charlie Appleby in a routine piece of work.

The five-year-old showed his well-being when put through his paces with his usual lead horse on Wednesday – to confirm his trip to Ireland this weekend.

“It was a routine piece of work to check his well-being, and he has come through it without a worry,” Appleby told


“It was not strong work, more a breeze, which is normal procedure three days before a race. He’s telling us that he’s ready now for another big race.

“We are really looking forward to the weekend. He travels to Ireland at the peak of his career, unbeaten in four starts this year, three of them Group Ones, two of which were officially rated the best performances globally in 2020.

“He’s now a five-year-old, and by any standards, he is lightly-raced. He has run only 12 times, winning nine and placing twice. This is his fourth season in training, and I believe what we are now seeing is an outstanding racehorse at the top of his game.”

The top-quality action is going to come thick and fast in Ireland this weekend

Hopes are therefore very high for another big run on Saturday, after Ghaiyyath’s three successive Group One victories this summer – preceded by a Group Three success at Meydan in February.

Appleby added: “He’s going to Leopardstown in as good a condition as we have ever had him. I’m as pleased with him as I was before the Group One Juddmonte International at York, where I thought he was very professional in the manner he went about everything.

“He showed his maturity. With every race this year, I think he has got better. From Newmarket, where he broke the course record for one and a half miles, galloping from end to end, to Sandown, where he beat Enable, to York, where his brilliance shone through.”

Magical and Japan will be among Aidan O'Brien's strong squad for Longines Irish Champions Weekend

Ghaiyyath will face five rivals on the opening day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend.

The main opposition will come from two Aidan O'Brien-trained runners, Magical, winner of the Irish Champion Stakes last year, and Japan. Magical is bidding to become the first horse to win the race twice after the O’Brien-trained Dylan Thomas in 2006 and 2007.

Jean-Claude Rouget is back for further Irish Champion Stakes success. He won with Almanzor in 2016 and runs Sottsass, the mount of Colin Keane, and the field is completed by the Jessica Harrington-trained Leo De Fury and one more from Ballydoyle, Armory.


Classic winners Fancy Blue, trained by Donnacha O'Brien and his father Aidan’s Peaceful, lead the way in the Group One Coolmore America 'Justify' Matron Stakes.

Eleven runners will line up for the first of the weekend’s six Group One races with Albigna and Valeria Messalina representing Jessica Harrington, Joseph O'Brien’s Argentinian-import Wilds Dreams takes her chance while Johnny Murtagh runs both Champers Elysees and Know It All as he searches for a first top-level training success.

Speaking this morning, Donnacha O'Brien, who has his first Longines Irish Champions Weekend runners this weekend, said: “It’s a great weekend, the biggest in Irish racing and I’m excited about having horses to run.

Donnacha O'Brien tells Johnny Ward more about Fancy Blue

“Fancy Blue starts out on her autumn campaign in the Matron Stakes and while the trip might not be ideal, she does have good form over a mile and she ran well in the Irish Guineas over this distance.”


There are ten runners for the Group 2 KMPG Champions Juvenile Stakes with the Harrington-trained Cadillac leading the way along with course and distance winner Fernando Vichi, and Ides Of August, trained by Donnacha O'Brien and Ger Lyons respectively.

Another Group Two on the stellar card is the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile and here ten runners will go to post with British raiders Century Dream, Escobar and Safe Voyage taking on the likes of Royal Dornoch, Lancaster House and Ancient Spirit.

The Group 3 Paddy Power ‘Is It 2021 Yet?’ Stakes has a field of 13 with Joseph O'Brien’s pair Buckhurst and Patrick Sarsfield taking on Irish Derby runner-up Tiger Moth, trained by Aidan O'Brien, Murtagh’s Red Kelly and the Paddy Twomey-trained Bolivar.

Racing begins with the Listed Ballylinch Stud Irish EBF Ingabelle Stakes where 13 runners line out, among them Joseph O'Brien’s course and distance winner Earth Strike and the recent Punchestown scorer New Emerald Bay, another for Murtagh.

A maximum field of 18 runners, including last year’s runner-up Buildmeupbuttercup, are set for the Irish Stallion Farms ‘Petingo’ Handicap while there’s also 18 declared for the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Sovereign Path’ Handicap with Damien English’s Geological and Lord Rapscallion for Nikita Kane and Murtagh likely leading contenders.

Tim Husbands, Leopardstown CEO said: “Declarations for Day 1 of Longines Irish Champions Weekend confirm that the quality of runner associated with this prestigious weekend will be of the same exceptional standard as previous years.

"We are delighted to welcome our International entries but also our native runners where the depth of talent is unrivalled. I would like to express our sincere gratitude to all owners, trainers, jockeys and sponsors for their valued participation and contribution to Longines Irish Champions Weekend.”

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