The final Group 1 of Longines Irish Champions Weekend sees a
top-class field of 14 do battle for the Irish St Leger, writes Paul Martin.
Search For A Song goes in search of a third straight triumph
in this race but Dermot Weld’s mare will have to beat some stellar opponents to
record a hat-trick, with Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment chief among
Here’s who will be going for glory at the Curragh…
1 Aircraft Carrier (jockey: Gary Carroll/trainer: Luke
Without a win since January 2019 but this six-year-old has a
decent record at the Curragh, finishing second in a Premier Handicap last year
and fourth in the Group 2 Curragh Cup in June.
Went off at 100-1 on both occasions and looks set to do
likewise on Sunday.
2 Amhran Na Bhfiann (Colin Keane/Aidan O’Brien)
The highest rated of Aidan O’Brien’s four runners, this son
of Galileo swept all before him en route to Curragh Cup glory earlier this
Has been below-par since, finishing well adrift in the
Goodwood Cup Stakes and St Leger Trial Stakes, but will hope for improvement
back under the guidance of leading Flat jockey Colin Keane, who takes the reins
for the first time since the Curragh Cup.
3 Barbados (Shane Foley/Jessica Harrington)
Only Keane has won more Flat races than Shane Foley this
season and he will be piloting one of two Jessica Harrington entries.
Sole win to date came more than two years ago but was fourth
in this race last year – albeit in a smaller field.
4 Baron Samedi (Dylan McMonagle/Joseph O’Brien)
A run of seven straight victories was broken last time out
as Joseph O’Brien’s four-year-old finished fifth in the Grand Prix de
That was his first race in Group 1 company but success in
the Group 2 Belmont Stakes in June showed what he is capable of.
5 Emperor of the Sun (Gavin Ryan/Donnacha O’Brien)
Looked to have a chance in the St Leger Trial Stakes when going
second three furlongs out but ultimately trailed in Twilight Payment’s wake and
Clearly a threat over this distance, however, as shown by
victory in the Listed Saval Beg Levmoss Stakes and third in the Vintage Crop
Stakes so far this year.
6 Master of Reality (Shane Crosse/Joseph O’Brien)
Returned to action after a 70-day break with a comfortable
victory over a distance just shy of this at Down Royal last time out.
Staying the distance won’t be an issue for a six-year-old
who has a Group 3 victory and Curragh Cup runners-up spot on the CV over a mile
7 Sonnyboyliston (Ben Coen/Johnny Murtagh)
Johnny Murtagh’s sole shot at the Irish St Leger, with
Ottoman Emperor taking part in the UK equivalent.
Held on to land the Ebor Handicap at York under Coen’s
guidance on his last outing and has prior Champions Weekend success having led
home a field of 22 in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Northfields Handicap last
8 Twilight Payment (Declan McDonogh/Joseph O’Brien)
Knows this track inside out, with victory in last month’s St
Leger Trial Stakes this eight-year-old’s sixth at the Curragh, a haul which
includes back-to-back Curragh Cups in 2019 and 2020.
Last year’s Melbourne Cup hero looks set to go off as
favourite and, on paper at least, looks Joseph O’Brien’s best bet of landing
this race for the first time as a trainer, having won it as a jockey aboard
Order of St George in 2015.
9 Barrington Court (Billy Lee/Jessica Harrington)
A regular over two miles plus in her early years, Barrington
Court has often stepped back in trip in recent times.
Both outings this year have been over this distance, with
fourth in the St Leger Trial Stakes an indication Jessica Harrington’s mare
cannot be discounted.
10 Passion (Ryan Moore/Aidan O’Brien)
The jockey-trainer duo who teamed up to take glory in 2017
and 2018 this year hope Passion will release Dermot Weld’s grip on this race.
Trailed stablemate Amhran Na Bhfiann in the Curragh Cup in
her only outing so far in 2021 but a third-placed finish was a solid showing
for a four-year-old who regularly lands a place.
11 Search For A Song (Oisin Orr/Dermot Weld)
No horse has won three Irish St Leger’s in a row since Dermot
Weld’s Vinnie Roe, who went on to make it four in an unbeatable stretch between
2001 and 2004.
Now Weld hopes history will repeat itself and Oisin Orr once
again takes the reins in what will be Search For A Song’s first outing since a
fifth-placed finish in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in May.
12 Carlisle Bay (Wayne Lordan/Aidan O’Brien)
Just a fourth outing for this three-year-old, who brought
home the rear despite having Frankie Dettori on board at Lingfield last time
Won on debut at Tipperary 11 months ago and will look to
challenge some more illustrious names.
13 King Of The Castle (Seamie Heffernan/Aidan O’Brien)
Entered the winners enclosure for the first time in July’s
Garryowen Maiden, the natural next step on a run which had seen him finish
fourth, third and second in consecutive outings.
Seamie Heffernan is on board looking to repeat his 2008
triumph aboard Septimus.
14 Seattle Creek (Chris Hayes/Luke Comer)
Fourth in a strong field on debut in the Captain Dara
Fitzpatrick Memorial Maiden showed potential.
This is a step up, of course, but will be intriguing to see
how this 100-1 shot fares on just his second outing.