There’s no doubting that Alpha Centauri is the star turn as €4.6m Irish Champions Weekend kicks into gear but there’s plenty more for punters to get their teeth stuck into on the opening day at Leopardstown.
It’s a huge day for Jessica Harrington as her superstar filly bids to make it five Group One victories in succession and the Moone handler is likely to get off to a flyer where she is triple-handed in the opening Listed Ingabelle Stakes (3.20).
Colm O’Donoghue’s booking on comfortable Curragh scorer Trethias suggests she is best placed to prevail but Sparkle’n’joy comes here on the back of a fine fourth at the Foxrock track in the Group Three Silver Flash Stakes while Chocolate Music drops back in grade and is respected in a tricky affair.
Aidan O’Brien is eager for success on both sides of the Irish Sea and the Ballydoyle maestro looks to end Dermot Weld’s dominance in the Group Three Paddy’s Rewards Club Stakes (4.55) where Rostropovich is favoured.
If the Irish Derby second can replicate that type of form, he is surely the one to beat given the three-year-old weight allowance, while champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins is the man to follow in the Petingo Handicap (3.50).
The Closutton master – who won this 12 months ago with Laws Of Spin – has made a habit of plundering these staying handicaps and saddles five of the 18 runners but his nephew Emmet may upset the applecart with Galway Festival winner St Stephens Green favoured to score.
English raiders have made hay in the concluding Sovereign Path Handicap (7.10) winning three of the last four renewals and they are well represented again – including last year’s victor Burnt Sugar for Roger Fell – and John Quinn’s Safe Voyage is one to keep on side as he bids for a handicap hat-trick.
4.25 Group Two KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes 2yo 1m RTE2
If Broome can leave a slow start at York behind, he holds every chance and looks the best of the Ballydoyle trio as they bid to make it six wins in seven years.
The Joe Schmidt-owned Cosmic Horizon arrives on the back of an easy win at Roscommon but this looks like a significant step up in class for Joseph O’Brien’s charge against course and distance winners Madhmoon, Masaff and Pythion.
They all carry decent reputations having scored on debut but preference is for Kevin Prendergast’s Madhmoon, which soundly beat O’Brien’s subsequent winner Sydney Opera House last month.
Verdict: Madhmoon to make it two from two under Chris Hayes.
5.25 Group One Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes 1m RTE2
O’Brien makes a three-pronged attack with Clemmie, Magical and Happily but based on what Alpha Centauri has produced this season, they should be no match for her, although Clemmie is progressing as the season reaches its close.
Alpha Centauri has been the story of the Flat season so far and looks one for the ages after scintillating victories in the Irish 1000 Guineas, Royal Ascot’s Coronation Stakes, the Falmouth Stakes as well as the Prix Jacques le Marois.
English 1000 Guineas second Laurens steps back to a mile after disappointing in the Yorkshire Oaks and Karl Burke’s filly may give her something to think about but this looks like a one-horse race.
Verdict: Sit back and enjoy Alpha Centauri strutting her stuff.
6.0 Group Two Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes 1m RTE2
An 11-runner puzzler where a compelling case can be made for many including Harrington’s Pincheck, which had the re-opposing Zihba and Zorion behind when scoring here last month.
Ger Lyons’ Psychedelic Funk hasn’t been seen in 155 days but the son of Choisir scored in a Naas Group Three with the minimum of fuss on his last start and commands respect. Preference is for O’Brien’s Kenya, however, after he turned the Irish Cambridgeshire into a procession, he seems to thrive in the autumn.
Verdict: Kenya and Seamie Heffernan to take the spoils.
6.35 Group One QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes 1m2f RTE2
It looked like Saxon Warrior was the one to dominate the season after his English 2000 Guineas win but Roaring Lion has ripped up the script with victories in the Eclipse and the Juddmonte International.
Saxon Warrior was behind him on both occasions and there’s little to suggest a change in fortune as Kerry jockey Oisin Murphy bids for a first win on Irish soil aboard John Gosden’s brilliant grey, which is owned by race sponsors QIPCO.
The last six runnings of this showpiece event have been won by a raiding party and Pascal Bary’s French Derby hero Study Of Man is respected, as is Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity after his comeback.
Verdict: Roaring Lion to show his class.