The niggle for those getting involved with him at at best odds of 4-6 is that he has been on the go all year and had only 24 days to recover from his exploits in the Juddmonte International at York, when he again put in quite a shift.
His is clearly taking his racing much better than in the past but the front-runner is always going to have a big target on his back and there is little margin for error in his price.
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I’d rather have a small punt on Sottsass at the 17-2 on offer because the French raider, trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, is a top-class performer in his own right who will have his optimum conditions.
He’s not as good as Almanzor, who won a fabulous renewal of this race for Rouget in 2016, but there are not too many better than him around and, relative to Ghaiyyath, he’s had a cushy campaign probably with this time of year in mind.
He was brilliant when winning the French Derby in a course record time last year, when beating Persian King two lengths, and again showed a sharp turn of foot to win the Prix Niel en-route to finishing a fine third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, when he was outstayed but still finished in front of Magical and Ghaiyyath.
He clearly needed his comeback run and proved the point by turning the tables on his conquerors when landing the Prix Ganay next time. Some will mark him down for a defeat at the hands of Skalleti in a Group Three contest last time but he was trying to give the prolifiic winner 7lb on deep ground after two months off. It should have put him spot-on for this assignment and I fancy he will enjoy Ghaiyyath setting solid fractions.
Peaceful and Fancy Blue have had a couple of good scraps already this term and meet again in the Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes. The dice looks loaded in favour of the former, over a mile, but I cannot resist giving another chance to Albigna.
She was one of the top two-year-olds last season and looked the type to improve again this term but, for whatever reason, it’s not happened for her in two starts – in the Irish 1000 Guineas, when she went off at 6-5, and in Group Three company in the mud over nine furlongs at The Curragh last time, when Evens.
I’d imagine she has been scrubbed off a few Christmas card lists after those reverses but she might well have needed that latest run, after 76 days off, and at 6-1 she’s worth another chance to bounce back on this better going.
Johnny Murtagh is enjoying a fabulous season and has nominated Mirann, who runs in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Petingo' Handicap (2.35), as his best chance of a winner this weekend. The four-year-old definitely has more to offer but Buildmeupbuttercup, trained by Willie Mullins, has even more going for her and is twice the price at 9-1 with Coral.
She’s 5lb higher than when beaten a neck by Kastasa, a subsequent Group Three winner, in last year’s renewal but it looks warranted and in any case it is offset by Joey Sheridan’s claim.
The strong-travelling Buildmeupbuttercup looked at the top of her game when winning easily over hurdles at Killarney last time and her draw in 14 is another positive. The first three home last year were drawn 18, 15 and 16, while in 2018 it was a similar story with the first three jumping from stalls 14, 17 and 16.
There are three British challengers in the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile and I was half-interested in David O’Meara’s Escobar, who can look really good when it all clicks for him.
Sinawann is probably a safer bet. He ran well at this meeting last year and confirmed his effectiveness at the track when landing a Group Three prize over course and distance in July.
The Kingman colt has since finished third in a muddling Royal Whip Stakes over ten furlongs at The Curragh, but a mile looks his trip and he can take advantage of the 5lb his older rivals must concede.
British raiders have won four of the past six renewals of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Sovereign Path' Handicap, so Another Batt (David Barron) and Gallipoli (Richard Fahey) warrant a second look.
Breaking Story and Agitare will have their supporters after being placed in the Irish Cambridgeshire but the race revolves around the unexposed Music To My Ears, who all but got up last time after being given a mountain to climb.
The JP McManus-owned filly, trained by Joseph O'Brien, is only 3lb higher and the form has been franked, with the horse who beat her since being touched off by Glen Shiel in pattern company. She's been off two months but it looks like she's been put by for this and I don't imagine the 5-1 offered by Boylesports will last.
How To Bet £20 on day one of Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown:
2.35 Buildmeupbuttercup £2 win and £1 each-way at 9-1 with Coral
3.10 Albigna £2.50 win at 13-2 with BetVictor
4.10 Sottsass £1.50 each-way at 17-2 with William Hill
4.45 Sinawann £2 win at a general 20-1
5.50 Music To My Ears £4.50 win at 5-1 with Boylesports
plus a £2 each-way double on 2.35 Buildmeupbuttercup and 5.50 Music To My Ears.
Select any odd to add a bet