Weekend scene-setter: Superstar Ghaiyyath headlines box office Champion Stakes

Charlie Appleby's speedster hopes to steal the show with another Group One performance fit for Hollywood

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Ghaiyyath is the headline act on Longines Irish Champions Weekend after claiming a hat-trick of Group Ones in the Coronation Cup, Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International this season

Even when you’ve got a box office all-star cast, you still need an A-lister to make everyone really swoon and go weak at the knees, writes James Toney.

The world’s best rated race horse will strut his speedy stuff down Leopardstown’s green carpet this weekend with all the sass and swagger of Paul, John, George, and Ringo playing at the old Adelphi Cinema on Middle Abbey Street 57 years ago.

Because, by some well-placed accounts, you can see the scorch marks Ghaiyyath is making at Charlie Appleby's Moulton Paddocks gallops from outer space.

He travels home to Ireland - he was born at Springbank Way Stud in County Kildare - for the Irish Champion Stakes at the absolute peak of his career, a big bruising brute of a horse with a turn of pace that has had commentators searching for superlatives.

Ghaiyyath is unbeaten in four starts this year, with three Group Ones including a record-breaking Coronation Cup, lowering the colours of Enable in the Eclipse and a soaraway win - more like a stroll such was its ease - in the Juddmonte International at York.

Two of those wins were officially rated the best performances globally in 2020 - and, according to Appleby, he has never looked better.

Forget the 'new normal', this kid just isn't normal and as summer fades, his future prizes could be as rich as autumnal colours.



The weeks ahead see entries in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp and Ascot's British Champions Stakes, plus there is possibly a crack at the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland on the planner.

Maintain his stunning unbeaten five-year-old season and his peak rating might eventually rival the likes of money-spinner Arrogate or Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh.

"We'll take it one race at at a time as regards future plans, but this is a good fit in his schedule," said Appleby, who is privately dreaming big but publicly playing it very cool, so Hollywood.

"This track should really suit him as he loves to run left-handed and we just couldn't be happier with him and he's very much the finished article."



William Buick - free to race after changes in quarantine rules - will take the ride as he seeks to win the €427,500 showpiece for the second time in his career.

When Ghaiyyath returned from a winter in Dubai almost a different horse, he described him as a 'monster' - and now he's got a monster reputation to match.

"He's the best I've ridden, without a doubt," said Buick, who'll be savouring optimum good ground conditions this weekend.

"This is an Irish Champion Stakes and it's always going to be full of quality but we've got a real deal here.

"I don't know whether the Arc is in the discussion or not. Let's get this race out of the way and we'll see. It's an exciting place to be."



Aidan O'Brien's Magical - last year's winner - is expected to provide the stiffest challenge while Ballydoyle also fire Japan and Armory at a race they've won a record eight times.

French raider Sottsass and Jessica Harrington's Leo De Fury complete a small but perfectly formed field but Ghaiyyath's greatest rival could well be the clock - with Snow Fairy's 2.00.92 course record from 2012 under serious threat.

Sunday's Longines Champions Weekend card at the Curragh features four mouthwatering Group Ones, including the historic Irish St Leger, the Vincent O'Brien National Stakes, Moyglare Stud Stakes and Flying Five Stakes.

And Leopardstown's Saturday fare also includes an exciting display of Girl Power as wannabes Fancy Blue, Peaceful and Albigna - big race winners for Donnacha O'Brien, Aidan O'Brien and Jessica Harrington in the last 12 months - go to post for a predicted thriller in the Group One Matron Stakes.

Ghaiyyath might be the main attraction but the supporting cast are more than capable of stealing the show too.

However, real superstars are rarely fans of sharing the headlines.

He's the best I've ridden, without a doubt. This is an Irish Champion Stakes and it's always going to be full of quality but we've got a real deal here. I don't know whether the Arc is in the discussion or not. Let's get this race out of the way and we'll see. It's an exciting place to be.
- William Buick 

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