Johnny Ward's best bets for Longines Irish Champions Weekend

By Johnny Ward
Sun 15 Sep 2019

Our Irish Racing expert marks your card for the high-class racing in Ireland and is taking on Pinatubo in the National Stakes!

Broadcasters in China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, Caribbean, South Africa, Russia, France, Italy, Poland and the UAE are among the countries showing live coverage of Longines Irish Champions Weekend.

We could have done with a French raider but we have one from Japan and plenty of top-notch British runners, with the redeveloped Curragh hosting its first Irish Champions Weekend.

If you are at the races, do say hello.

Sunday selections:

3.00 Curragh: Albigna

Jessica Harrington had an embarrassment of options here, but she relies solely on the unbeaten Zoffany-bred, who looks a certainty to appreciate seven-furlongs, yet the same cannot be said of her main market foe Daahyeh, who is already rated 107.

Albigna is reportedly getting stronger and worked well midweek. She has finished off her races exceptionally strongly and looks very much the one to beat here under Shane Foley.

3.35 Curragh: Armory

This could well whittle into a two-horse duel between Pinatubo and Armory. I think Pinatubo will probably win but so do the bookmakers and, at the prices, Armory has to be the selection.

He is progressing with racing, has lots of toe for a son of Galileo and his trainer has won this race 11 times.

Pinatubo has a lot to spare on ratings but this is definitely his biggest test so far.

6.00 Curragh: Numerian

Numerian is by Holy Roman Emperor but a brother to a winner over 12 furlongs and closely related to one who won over a mile and six, so there is further basis for thinking this distance will improve a strong stayer over an extended stiff mile at Galway.

He never seems to run a bad race, going close here last time, and seems the one to beat, albeit with Hamley afforded plenty of respect.

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Saturday selections:

2.30 Leopardstown: Contrapposto at 33-1 with Paddy Power and Betfair

One of my bets of the weekend and the price discrepancy between him and Trossachs is baffling considering he probably should have beaten him at Gowran Park last time out.

He has had few chances at a mile and a half and, while he will probably have to be ridden for luck, he looks to have a great chance if he gets the breaks.

He ran a cracker at Gowran and basically had no run in the final furlong. Alan Persse will have learnt plenty from him that day as well.

3.40 Leopardstown: Broad Street at 12-1 with Betfair and Bet Victor

In the Ballyroan Stakes at this track, Broad Street ran a really pleasing prep. That was a messy, small-field event won by Latrobe in which the inexperienced Dermot Weld-trained colt met trouble in running and stayed out well after his chance was gone.

In a weekend in which Stradivarius will garner many headlines, this is another nice Sea The Stars stayer in the making. A strong gallop looks very likely here too.

4.15 Leopardstown: Deirdre at a general 14-1

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It is likely Hunting Horn and/or Magic Wand will set the pace here and Magical will track them, so at the very least it should be a decent gallop.

Deirdre is pretty reliant on that but she has not had many chances in the northern hemisphere and she has a good finishing kick.

She is a bit flattered by what happened in the Nassau Stales, but I see this track suiting her and she can at least run into the frame in a fascinating renewal.

5.25 Leopardstown: I Can Fly at a general 6-1

Hermosa had a nightmare race at Goodwood and, even though her stablemates dominate the opposition, there is no guarantee she will get an easy lead.

I Can Fly looks a certainty to be ridden to come from off the pace and she looks far too big in the market relative to her stablemate.

A course-and-distance winner, she is rock-solid, and Laurens only won this race last year because Alpha Centauri was not right.

6.00 Leopardstown: Silverkode at 8-1 with Bet Victor and Coral

The handicapper does not head a charitable organisation but there is a feeling that Silverkode is getting in pretty lightly here.

He's finished second in the last two renewals of this race off much higher ratings and now gets in off 83, even though he was running off 92 -finishing second - only three starts ago.

There is a bit of a concern that all three of his wins came as a three-year-old at the Curragh in 2017 and layers may take him on but, clearly from a handicapping perspective after two perfectly respectable prep runs at the Curragh, he is entitled to win this from a low draw.

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