Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in the reckoning for Alpine Star

Thu 27 Aug 2020

Alpine Star may bid to cap her fine season in next month’s Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Jessica Harrington’s Group One-winning filly was outgunned only by the unbeaten Palace Pier in her first foray into open-age company against the colts in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville this month.

She was previously a Royal Ascot winner in the Coronation Stakes and then narrowly failed to peg back Fancy Blue in the Prix de Diane over 10 and a half furlongs at Chantilly.

Her owners the Niarchos family are yet to decide whether another of their three-year-old stars Highest Ground will be out again this season, or wait until next summer.

But racing manager Alan Cooper confirmed they have a much more definite plan for Alpine Star.

“At the moment, Mrs Harrington is leaning towards the Irish Champion Stakes,” he said.

The 10-furlong Group One on September 12 features luminaries such as Fancy Blue, Ghaiyyath and even Palace Pier himself – yet to race beyond a mile – among 46 initial entries.

Cooper added: “We’ve got another two weeks to go – the filly has come out of Deauville very well.

“She’s had a very good season. She’s one of the leading (lights) of her own generation.

“She raced against the older colts at Deauville, and was beaten by a three-year-old.”

Sir Michael Stoute’s Highest Ground lost his unbeaten record on his third start, and first in Group company, when a neck second in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York early last month.

Connections have stated throughout that the son of Frankel will be seen at his best as a four-year-old – and that is very much still the consensus.

Asked if he is likely to be seen on course again this year, Cooper said: “I’m not sure at the moment.

“We’ll wait and see, but next year is his principal objective really.”

Highest Ground’s three career starts have been spread over 11 months to date, and Cooper said: “He’s just simply been a late maturer.

“Sir Michael has given him plenty of time – and he ran a very good race in the Dante.

“We’ll just feel our way whether there is a suitable occasion to run this year or not. I don’t want to say yay or nay, but next year is more his plan.”

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