Irish Champion Stakes Preview – Saturday 10th September

Last updated: September 9, 2016 by Leon Marshal

The feature race at Leopardstown on Saturday is the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at 6.45 €1.25million of prize money on offer.

Harzand drops back in trip at Leopardstown

The race was established in 1976 and is now one of the most prestigious ten furlongs races in the calendar. It regularly attracts the top middle distance horses in Europe and past winners include Sadler’s Wells (1984), Suave Dancer (1991), Daylami (1999), Giant’s Causeway (2000), High Chaparral (2003) and Sea The Stars (2009).

Aidan O’Brien has trained the winner of the Irish Champion Stakes on seven occasions, most recently with So You Think (2011). John Gosden has trained two of the last three winners with The Fugue (2013) and Golden Horn (2015).

Harzand bids to emulate Golden Horn who won the Derby prior to his success in this race 12 months’ ago. Dermot Weld’s colt beat St Leger favourite Idaho by half a length in the Irish Derby on his next start. The going has been on the soft side for all four of his victories this season and connections are hoping that there is plenty of give in the ground at Leopardstown on Saturday. The drop back in trip could be a slight concern for the colt who has not raced since June. Weld also runs Ebediyin who is expected to act as a pacemaker for Harzand.

Minding leads O’Brien Champion team

Aidan O’Brien is expected to have four runners in the Irish Champion Stakes this year. Minding is currently the market leader and will be ridden by Ryan Moore. She was a brilliant winner of the 1000 Guineas in the spring and overcame trouble in running to win the Epsom Oaks in June.

Minding has since won the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes and the Nassau Stakes and this will be the first time she has raced against the colts. She was less impressive on faster ground at Goodwood but should have conditions to her liking at Leopardstown.

Found has finished runner-up in her last four races and was beaten by Golden Horn in a controversial race here last season. There did not appear to be any excuses for her at York last month but a fast-run ten furlongs is probably ideal for the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner.

King George winner Highland Reel has shown all of his best form on a faster surface and was only fifth in this race last year. He will be partnered by Colm O’Donoghue with Donnacha O’Brien riding outsider Sir Isaac Newton.

Almanzor leads French challenge

There is a very strong French challenge for the Irish Champion Stakes with both Almanzor and New Bay expected to make the trip. Almanzor carries plenty of stable confidence after winning the Prix Du Jockey Club in the summer. He followed that up with a comfortable victory in a Group 2 at Deauville and this race was immediately announced as his next target. He has a brilliant turn of foot and acts well in soft ground.

New Bay won the French Derby last season for Andre Fabre and finished third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October. Connections blamed the bottomless ground for his poor run at Chantilly in May but he returned to winning ways at Deauville last month. The runner-up was only rated 100 but New Bay showed that he has retained his ability from last season and Fabre has been quite bullish in the pre-race build-up.

Eclipse winner Hawkbill looked to be feeling the effects of a busy summer when only eighth at York last time. He probably wasn’t suited by the fast ground that day but it will be a surprise if he can bounce back quickly on Saturday. He looks the best of the three British-trained runners ahead of Kevin Ryan’s 2014 winner The Grey Gatsby and Clive Cox’s My Dream Boat. A top quality line-up is completed by Ken Condon’s recent winner Success Days and Jim Bolger’s Moonlight Magic.

Irish Champion Stakes Betting Tips

It is difficult to knock the credentials of Minding and Harzand but the French challengers look strong this year. Almanzor is racing over his ideal trip and has enjoyed an uninterrupted preparation. Andre Fabre exudes confidence over New Bay and he could prove good each-way value at 12-1.

Almanzor @6-1 Ladbrokes

New Bay (each-way) @12-1 Ladbrokes

The Irish Champion Stakes is due off at 6.45 and will be screened live on RTE2.