The globe-trotting Cross Counter will attempt to add to high profile wins in Australia and Meydan in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger at the Curragh on Sunday.
Successful in last year’s Emirates Melbourne Cup and the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan in March, Charlie Appleby’s four-year-old heads a final field of 10 for the feature event on the second day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend.
However he faces a formidable home challenge. Aidan O'Brien runs four with Kew Garden joined by Capri, Southern France and Cypress Creek in the €600,000 event. Joseph O'Brien runs last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner Latrobe, Ascot Gold Cup third Master Of Reality and recent recruit Twilight Payment, while Dermot Weld, a seven-time winner of the race, has Kerrygold Irish Oaks fourth Search For A Song. The Sylvester Kirk-trained Salouen completes the line-up.
The first of Sunday’s Group 1 races is the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes with 12 horses going forward, the dozen headed by Eddie Lynam’s rising star Soffia, a four-year-old filly who has exploded through the sprint ranks this summer. The Michael Dods-trained Mabs Cross and the Archie Watson-trained Soldier’s Call head the raiding party which also includes leading fancies Houtzen and Invincible Army.
The leading two-year-old colt this season, Pinatubo, bids to give Charlie Appleby and Godolphin their second successive victory in the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes. The son of Sharmadal is unbeaten in four runs this season but faces his stiffest test to date with a home challenge led by four Aidan O’Brien-trained colts, including recent Futurity Stakes winner Armory.
It promises to be an afternoon of high class two-year-old action with star fillies Daahyeh and the unbeaten Albigna leading the final field of nine in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes.
The Moyglare ‘Jewels’ Blandford Stakes has attracted a field of 10 runners with Tarnawa carrying the hopes of Dermot Weld, who has a great record in the race. Aidan O'Brien’s Goddess and the unbeaten Loveisthehigherlaw for trainer Paddy Twomey will provide stiff opposition.
The €300,000 Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale Stakes has attracted a monster field of 26 two-year-olds with the Ger Lyons-trained Last Opportunity, Hugo Palmer’s Hamish Macbeth and the Archie Watson-trained Maystar set to take their chance.
Big fields are also declared for the two Premier handicaps on the nine-race card with 25 lining up for the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Bold Lad’ Sprint Handicap. The admirable Gordon Lord Byron tops the weights in a race where the Denis Hogan-trained Make A Challenge, Natalia Lupini’s Blairmayne and the David O’Meara-trained Gulliver are among the notable runners.
The final race of Longines Irish Champions Weekend is the 17-runner Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Northfields’ Handicap with Joe Murphy’s Insignia Of Rank at the head of the weights. One Cool Poet, also declared for the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Petingo’ Handicap at Leopardstown tomorrow, might well feature again along with the Lyons-trained Nickajack Cave and John Murphy’s War Diary.
The Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland at 4.50pm is race seven on a bumper nine-race card, and features a never-to-be-repeated opportunity to see living legends take to the saddle for the last time. Paul Carberry, Charlie Swan, Ted Durcan, Kieren Fallon, Richard Hughes, Tony McCoy, Johnny Murtagh, Joseph O’Brien and Ruby Walsh will all take their mounts for the race which has been created by nine-time Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen to increase awareness of pancreatic cancer and to raise much-needed funds for upcoming cancer trials.
Racecourse Media Group (RMG), working with Horse Racing Ireland, Leopardstown and The Curragh, have worked with international broadcasters to ensure Longines Irish Champions Weekend, the two-day showpiece of Irish Flat racing, will be watched live all over the world with broadcasters in China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, Caribbean, South Africa, Russia, France, Italy, Poland and the UAE among the countries showing live coverage.
For the first time, both days will be broadcast on delay in China via Hainan TV, while Green Channel will show the Irish Champions Stakes card live to their Japanese audience.
Pat Keogh, CEO of the Curragh Racecourse, said: “As is the case at Leopardstown on Saturday, the final declarations for the Curragh on Sunday are right out of the top drawer. The Comer Group International Irish St Leger is a wonderfully strong renewal and we are delighted with how well the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes has turned out. The same can be said for the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes and Goffs Vincent O’Brien Stakes, two races to savour on a stunning day’s racing.”