Race of the
a programme is laden with the type of quality that has become a watchword for
Longines Irish Champions Weekend, selecting one race to watch is impossible.
And though we will select three this term, the choice of the most
mouth-watering and important contest is easy.
That is the
Pat Smullen Champions Race for CancerTrials Ireland. It is easily the best
legends’ race that has ever been brought together, with each of the nine riders
champion jockeys in their day and many of them among the greatest that ever
threw a leg over a horse.
Ruby Walsh, AP
McCoy, Kieren Fallon, Joseph O’Brien, Johnny Murtagh, Paul Carberry, Charlie
Swan, Richard Hughes and Ted Durcan have garnered 66 titles between them. They
all rode against Smullen at some stage, given that the future nine-time
champion on the Flat did have a brief career over obstacles.
man, who has organised this event along with his wife Frances Crowley, was
slated to take part himself initially but a setback in his recovery from
pancreatic cancer has forced him to sit it out.
He intends to
be at the Curragh on Sunday however to throw his weight behind what is a race
in its own right, with prizemoney and a unique opportunity for connections of
the competing horses to brush with greatness.
The key to the
entire exercise of course is to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer and
raise as much money as possible for cancer research. Every penny counts and you
can donate directly to CancerTrials.ie.
Race of the
Irish Champion Stakes would be top dog (pardon the animalistic confusion) on a
normal weekend, given it is often among the top-rated contests in the world and
boasts a roll of honour that would rival any.
The cast for
tomorrow’s Leopardstown feature doesn’t let the side down, headed by the Aidan
O’Brien-trained Magical. The four-year-old daughter of Galileo and has been
boxing in the heavyweight division through the summer, and there is no shame in
having to give best to the now sadly-retired Crystal Ocean and dual Arc heroine
Enable. This is a chance to secure a deserved Group 1 for the campaign and a
first for her trainer since So You Think and Seamie Heffernan claimed the
spoils in 2011.
That was the
last time a home-trained contestant was victorious, with six from England
(three conditioned by John Gosden) and one from France. Elarqam (Mark Johnston)
and Headman (Roger Charlton) represent the cross-channel challenge on this
occasion, while history will be made when the Mitsuru Hashida-trained Deirdre
becomes the first Japanese-trained horse to participate.
will surround Madhmoon, like Elarqam, owned by Hamdan Al Maktourm, but trained
on the Curragh by 87-year-old Kevin Prendergast and ridden by Chris Hayes.
After a brilliant effort in the Epsom Derby and disappointment subsequently in
the Irish version, hopes are high that the drop to 10 furlongs will bring the
Dawn Approach three-year-old a memorable success.
Race of the
Group International Irish St Leger is going to be a real test with multiple
Group 1 competitors vying for the final Classic of the domestic campaign. Capri
is a former English Leger victor from 2017, who counts Crystal Ocean and
Cracksman among his conquests. Kew Gardens and Southern France are others
Moyglare Stud and Chris Hayes combine with York victor Search For A Song, while
Joseph O’Brien is represented by 2018 Irish Derby hero Latrobe and recent
recruit Twilight Payment, both of which have intended engagements in Australia,
primarily in the Melbourne Cup.
Flemington’s race that stops a nation brings us to the Charlie Appleby-trained
Cross Counter, who claimed the honours last November. He comes into this with
two excellent Gold Cup runs behind Stradivarius at Royal Ascot and Goodwood and
is a serious contender to add Ireland to a global winning CV that also includes
Meydan and also, obviously England.