Trainers looking to make headlines on Irish Champions Weekend

Fri 10 Sep 2021

One of the great meetings in the European racing calendar takes centre-stage this weekend as the two-day Longines Irish Champions Weekend forms the centrepiece of coverage on Racing TV with a glittering array of stars set to be in action across Leopardstown and the Curragh.

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With prize money and prestige both on offer, well-known stables and smaller operations will both be focused alike on the action. Below we've identified some of the trainers we can see enjoying a successful time this weekend at the Longines Irish Champions Weekend, live on Racing TV.

Aidan O’Brien

There is only one place to start, with the master of Ballydoyle Aidan O’Brien not unexpectedly holding a strong hand across the weekend. O’Brien has won 121 Group races in the last five years at a stunning 17% strike-rate and he is certain to be well-represented in some of the biggest races of the weekend.

His chief hopes include St Mark’s Basilica in the Irish Champion Stakes (2.45pm, Saturday), a race O’Brien has already won nine times previously. St Mark’s Basilica, a stunning winner of the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown when last seen, is bidding to give the Ballydoyle maestro a third straight win in the race following Magical’s successive victories in 2019 and 2020.

Other O’Brien stalwarts to mention include Mother Earth who recorded a gutsy success in the Prix Rothschild and is now a leading player for the Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes (1.40pm, Saturday). She is likely to have to face the ultra-progressive Create Belief in this event, but Mother Earth is taken to continue her fine season and provide O’Brien with his fourth win in the contest. O’Brien’s other leading hope of the weekend is the unbeaten Point Lonsdale who will bid to further cement his Classic credentials in Sunday’s Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes (4.05pm), for which he is likely to go off the odds-on favourite.

Dermot Weld

With 37 winners on the Flat in Ireland already this year at a strike-rate of 14%, Weld comes into the meeting in decent form. No stranger to success on Irish Champions Weekend, he will be searching for a third straight win in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger with Search For A Song who has recorded stunning victories in the last two runnings of this event.

Weld also has a fascinating runner in the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Sunday, 3.30pm) with Homeless Songs. She defeated subsequent dual Group-race scorer Agartha on debut at Leopardstown and is firmly in the 'could-be-anything' category.

Weld is also no stranger to handicap success at the meeting and enjoys an 8% strike-rate in handicaps in Ireland in the last five seasons. That makes Ciel D’Afrique an interesting runner in Saturday’s ‘Petingo’ Handicap at 3.45pm. The son of Sea The Stars is a half-brother to Group winner Carla Bianca and ran out a ready winner of a Roscommon maiden last time out. He looks open to any amount of improvement and could be thrown in off a mark of 82.

Ger Lyons

The dual Classic winning trainer is enjoying another fine season. The County Meath handler is already on course to enjoy his best season to date numerically with 55 winners from 276 runners on the Flat, a stunning 20% strike-rate, enhanced by the yard currently operating at a 28% strike-rate in the last fortnight.

Lyons’ leading hope in the Group events could be Cairde Go Deo who impressed when scoring by four and a half lengths at the Curragh last time out and is a major player for Sunday’s Moyglare Stud Stakes (3.30pm).

However, some of the bigger handicaps of the weekend will be likely targets for the yard. They include Flagged who could take in Sunday’s Northfields Handicap at 5.45pm. The daughter of Starspangledbanner was a narrow second at Leopardstown in a competitive handicap last time out and remains well-treated off a mark of 83.

In Saturday’s Sovereign Path Handicap (4.20pm), Lyons has six entries, headlined by Masen who finished second in a Listed contest at Killarney last month and who could find more improvement off a mark of 104.

Paddy Twomey

One of the rising stars of the training ranks, Twomey’s burgeoning career has already yielded great success and he looks set to have a small but select team for Longines Irish Champions Weekend.

Fran Berry caught up with Paddy Twomey ahead of the weekend

His chief hope is La Petite Coco who is a strong favourite for Sunday’s Moyglare Jewels Blandford Stakes at 2.20pm. Brought along slowly this season, the three-year-old backed up success at Killarney when scorching the turf to win by five and a half-lengths in a Group Three at Cork last time out. That was a stunning success and she is a filly firmly on the up.

Twomey, who trains in County Tipperary, also boasts an excellent record in handicaps this term. From just 12 runners, Twomey has saddled four winners, a stunning 33% strike-rate highlighting his effective placement of horses. It is therefore notable that Twomey will only have one runner in a handicap this weekend with Bolivar taking in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Northfields Handicap at 5.45pm on Sunday. The four-year-old was a dual winner last term, culminating with a good second in a Listed event at the Curragh. The son of Anodin has struggled in two Stakes races so far this term, latterly finishing seventh in the Royal Whip. However, he has been dropped 2lb for his latest effort and time may well show him to have been a Group horse masquerading in a handicap.

Johnny Murtagh

The trainer has enjoyed a brilliant year with Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood successes capped by victory in the Sky Bet Ebor at York. Murtagh has assembled a strong team for Irish Champions Weekend, a year on from Champers Elysees providing him with a first Group One success in the Matron Stakes (1.40pm). She looks set for an attempt to defend her crown in the mile event, but has so far endured a disappointing campaign. She did show signs of a revival when second in a Group Three at the Curragh last time out.

Murtagh has so far enjoyed 11 winners from 74 handicap runners this season. His most intriguing runner of the weekend could therefore be Riot for Qatar Racing. The son of Kingman failed to fulfil his potential for the Gosdens, but shaped well on his first start for Murtagh over six furlongs when third at Dundalk. He is yet to win in six starts on turf which is a slight concern, but he could be a player at a big price in Saturday’s ‘Sovereign Path’ Handicap at 4.20pm.

Jessica Harrington

Harrington has enjoyed another good year with 57 winners already on the turf and the pick of her runners this weekend looks to be Cayenne Pepper, a leading contender in Sunday’s Blandford Stakes after her success in the race last year.

Shane Foley talked to Racing TV after Cayenne Pepper scored in 2020

Harrington also looks set to be well-represented in the handicaps. Two to keep an eye on are Ever Present who finished a good second at the Curragh last time out and takes in the ‘Petingo Handicap’ on Saturday and the progressive Provocateuse who impressed when landing a competitive handicap at Naas and runs in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Bold Lad’ Sprint Handicap (1.45pm) on Sunday.

Matthew Smith

County Meath traine Smith enjoyed one of the biggest successes of his career courtesy of Master Matt’s victory in the Abergwaun Sprint Stakes at Tipperary and he is one of the smaller trainers at Longines Irish Champions Weekend targeting success in a major prize.

Master Matt wins at Tipperary - can he step forward again?

Master Matt has proved a real star for Smith and he will attempt to defy top-weight in the €125,000 Bold Lad Sprint Handicap at 1.45pm on the Sunday. Already proven at the track, Master Matt was a surprise winner of that Listed event last time out, but the five-year-old is evidently at the top of his game right now.

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