The best of Irish and a strong overseas contingent will target the biggest of races on Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown and the Curragh on Saturday and Sunday.
Deirdre is set to become the first Japanese-trained runner in Ireland when she lines up for the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday afternoon and she is among the 11 horses going forward for the first of six Group 1 races over the two days.
The field for the €1.25m event was further strengthened this morning when trainer Mark Johnston supplemented Elarqam with Roger Charlton’s Headman standing his ground. Kevin Prendergast has Madhmoon set to run and Jim Bolger has left Verbal Dexterity in the race.
Aidan O'Brien still has Magical, Hunting Horn, Magic Wand, Anthony Van Dyck, Magna Grecia and Pink Dogwood to pick from and the champion trainer said this afternoon: “Magna Grecia could run in the Champion Stakes. His plan after the Irish Guineas had been the Juddmonte International at York, which he didn’t run in, the Irish Champion Stakes and then back to the mile later in the season at Ascot.
“We’ve been very happy with Magical since she ran at York. We'll know closer to the weekend, but plenty could run at Leopardstown,” said Aidan O’Brien.
O’Brien holds another strong hand in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes and again has six horses remaining in the race. Just Wonderful, I Can Fly, Coral Beach, Goddess and Happen could join dual Guineas heroine Hermosa in the mile event with the chief opposition set to come from Laurens which will bid to add to last year’s thrilling success for trainer Karl Burke. Skitter Scatter is on track to take her chance for John Oxx while Joseph O'Brien has left in both Red Tea and Iridessa to complete the field of ten.
Aidan O’Brien said: “Hermosa came out of her last run in Goodwood in good form. It’s an unbelievable two days’ racing, we’re very lucky to have it, and we want to run as many as we can.”
A total of 18 horses go forward for the final Classic of the year, the Comer Group International Irish St Leger, at the Curragh on Sunday where there are four Group 1 races up for grabs. Cross Counter leads the way for Charlie Appleby while Latrobe, Buckhurst and Twilight Payment, formerly trained by Jim Bolger, are among those in the mix for Joseph O'Brien. Southern France, winner of the Comer Group Irish St Leger Trial Stakes over the course and distance a month ago, has been added to the field by Aidan O'Brien who also has Capri and Kew Gardens to choose from while Dermot Weld, a seven-time winner of the race, has Search For A Song.
The Michael Dods-trained Mabs Cross and Eddie Lynam’s Soffia head the way in the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes for which there are 13 horses remaining with 15, including Daahyeh, trained by Roger Varian, and Jessica Harrington’s Albigna in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
Pinatubo, trained by Charlie Appleby, tops the 15 in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes with Armory and Arizona among a strong entry from Ballydoyle.
Pat Keogh, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse and CEO of the Curragh Racecourse, said: “Longines Irish Champions Weekend is a highlight of the global racing calendar and this is reflected in the quality of the entries in the races, we are delighted to see such a good representation from Ireland and abroad and are looking forward to a thrilling weekend of top class racing.”