Harry Allwood outlines the positives and negatives for the six runners in this year's Irish Champion Stakes plus reveals his recommended bet.
One of the biggest meetings of the year in Ireland takes centre stage on Racing TV this weekend and it looks like we are in for a treat given the calibre of the six entries that remain in the Irish Champion Stakes.
Saturday’s feature at Leopardstown is one of six Group One contests during Longines Irish Champions Weekend and Ghaiyyath heads the betting for the 1m2f contest which has been won by some superstars in the past.
Charlie Appleby’s charge is set to face strong opposition once again though, with Aidan O’Brien – who has won this race a record-breaking eight times – responsible for three of the contenders, including Japan and last year’s winner, Magical.
Here’s a guide plus a recommended bet ahead of the showpiece, live on Racing TV at 4.10pm.
Trainer: Charlie Appleby. Best odds: 8-11.
Positives: Has proved he is one of the world’s best racehorses this season with three impressive Group One victories, including a career best in the Juddmonte International last time out. Clearly the one to beat on the form he has shown this year and has also proved he doesn’t need to be given a break before each run to show his best.
Negatives: Has made all in his three victories this year and it would be no surprise if one of his rivals take him on for the lead this time, especially one of Aidan O’Brien’s battalion.
Verdict: It will take a huge performance from one of his rivals to beat him and he has a seriously high cruising speed which his opponents find hard to match. Difficult to oppose and will prove a tough nut to crack if anywhere near his best.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Odds: 5-1.
Positives: Has proved consistent in Group One contests over the past couple of seasons and boasts some of the stronger form next to his name in this contest. Remains unexposed over ten furlongs and is one of the highest rated in this field, plus Ryan Moore has opted to ride him.
Negatives: Has failed to get his head in front in three starts this season and failed to land a blow when third behind Ghaiyyath in the Coral-Eclipse in July. Also needs to put a disappointing run in the King George behind him, although he was found to have a stone bruise afterwards.
Verdict: Had excuses last time out and does not have many lengths to find with the favourite judged on his run in the Sandown showpiece. Any ease in the ground would aid his chances and it will be no surprise to see him involved in the finish.
Trainer: Jessica Harrington. Odds: 66-1.
Positives: Showed plenty of promise in defeat last season and took a big step forward to land a Group Two at the Curragh on his seasonal debut. Wasn’t disgraced on his first start in Group One company when fifth in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.
Negatives: Is another who needs to prove he is up to Group One standard and ran below-par in a Group Three at the Curragh when last seen.
Verdict: It’s likely he has more to offer given he has only had nine starts. However, there was no obvious excuse for his run last time out and he has plenty to find here.
Trainer: Jean-Claude Rouget Odds: 8-1.
Positives: French raider who has some high-class form next to his name and was not beaten far in last year’s Arc where he had Japan and Magical in behind. Has since landed the Prix Ganay in game style and handles any ground.
Negatives: Was a shade disappointing he couldn’t get his head in front in a Group Three last time out and will need to bounce back from that effort. Has never run outside of France either, which poses a question mark.
Verdict: Another tilt at the Arc is likely to be his ultimate target this season, but he has a chance of going close if at his best and is certainly one for the shortlist.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien General odds: 9-2.
Positives: Six-time Group One winner who made a surprise return to action this season and has already scored twice at the highest level this year. Ran a big race to finish runner-up behind Ghaiyyath in the Juddmonte International and was successful in this race last season.
Negatives: Looked to be beaten fair and square by Ghaiyyath last time out and will need to raise her game to reverse form with Charlie Appleby’s superstar. Rejected by Ryan Moore.
Verdict: No reason why she will not be in the mix again, but will probably need Ghaiyyath to not be at his best to land the Leopardstown showpiece for the second time.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien General odds: 66-1.
Positives: Showed a decent level of form as a two-year-old last season and ran with credit in defeat in two Group One contests on his first two starts this year. Was also value for more than the winning margin suggests when successful in a Group Three when last seen.
Negatives: Was unable to land a blow against Magical in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and needs to take a big step forward judged on the form he has shown so far.
Verdict: Although he is likely to have more improvement left in him, it will be a big surprise to see him secure a first Group One here.
Ghaiyyath clearly deserves to be the odds-on favourite judged on his performances this season and his rivals face a difficult task of beating him based on the ratings. He has produced some monster performances this season.
A case can be made for some of his rivals though and I would rather back one of the contenders each-way, and the one who ought to go close if back to his best is JAPAN.
Aidan 0’Brien’s dual Group One winner was not at his best at Royal Ascot on his seasonal debut where he looked in need of the run and was only beaten just over two lengths by Ghaiyyath in the Coral-Eclipse on ground that would probably have been faster than ideal.
It is best to forgive his run last time out where he had excuses and he doesn’t actually have that many miles on the clock, so is worth supporting each-way at 12-1. (Advised at this price on Wednesday when 13 remained entered)
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