BIG guns St Mark’s Basilica, Tarnawa and Poetic Flare remain on target to clash in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.
The trio head the remaining 13 entries for the €1 million event, rated the second-highest race in the world last year and the highlight at 2.45pm on the opening day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend which, for the first time, will be a World Pool event for all eight races.
Also standing their ground are a sextet from Ballydoyle, Armory, Bolshoi Ballet, Innisfree and the fillies Snowfall, Love and Joan Of Arc. Joseph O'Brien has left a trio in the race, Patrick Sarsfield, Baron Samedi and Thundering Nights while Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney also remains a possible contender.
The first of the weekend’s Group 1 races is the Coolmore America 'Justify' Matron Stakes. Johnny Murtagh has left in both last year’s winner Champers Elysees and the ever-improving Create Belief, while Aidan O'Brien can choose from Mother Earth, Empress Josephine, Joan Of Arc and Friendly.
Joseph O'Brien is also strongly represented with Thundering Nights, Pretty Gorgeous and Lovely Esteem while the Willie McCreery-trained Epona Plays would not be without her chance. The Pascal Bary-trained Thalie stays in as do the Ed Walker-trained Dreamloper and Richard Fahey’s Fev Rover.
There are four Group 1 races at the Curragh on Sunday and the second day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend is highlighted by the Comer Group International Irish St Leger for which there are 22 horses remaining.
Leading the way is Dermot Weld’s Search For A Song, bidding for her third successive win in the race with opposition set to include Johnny Murtagh’s Ebor winner Sonnyboyliston. A strong team from the Joseph O'Brien stable is comprised of Twilight Payment, Master Of Reality and Baron Samedi while Aidan O'Brien has five possibles, including 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner Santiago and Sir Lucan. Aircraft Carrier and Seattle Creek are set to represent the sponsor, Luke Comer.
From France and Germany, Yann Barberot’s Brokeback Mountain and the Andreas Suborics-trained Rip Van Lips, winner of the Group 2 Comer Group International 50th Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten in May, could yet take their chance along with the remaining British challenger, David O’Meara’s Eagles By Day.
Sixteen horses remain in the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes, headed by last year’s winner of the race, the Kevin Ryan-trained Glass Slippers and Tim Easterby’s Winter Power, successful in the Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes at York.
Archie Watson’s Dragon Symbol is another leading contender standing his ground along with top home contenders Mooneista, Gustavus Weston and Measure Of Magic, trained by Jack Davison, Joe Murphy and Johnny Murtagh respectively.
The first of the weekend’s Group 1 races for two-year-olds is the Moyglare Stud Stakes and topping the 14 remaining entries are Ger Lyons’s supplementary entry Cairde Go Deo and the Dermot Weld-trained Homeless Songs which is bidding to give the sponsors their first win in the race.
Unbeaten colts Point Lonsdale, trained by Aidan O'Brien, and the Charlie Appleby-trained Native Trail lead the way in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes for which 10 horses stand their ground. Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes winner Ebro River is there for Hugo Palmer while Michael Bell’s Great Max could be another raider from across the Irish Sea.
Tim Husbands, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse, said: “We are delighted to see such a top-class field at this stage announced for the Irish Champion Stakes. It will be a highly competitive race, truly reflective of the depth of quality of Irish racing currently. We are looking forward to a great day’s racing and to have racegoers returning in greater numbers will make for an extra special occasion.”
Evan Arkwright, Chief Executive (interim) of the Curragh Racecourse, said: “The entries on Sunday certainly confirms the champion status of the day with high quality runners from start to finish on a superb programme which features four Group 1 races. I would like to acknowledge the fantastic support of owners, trainers and of course our very loyal sponsors. We are really looking forward to welcoming racegoers back to the Curragh for one of the major highlights in the international calendar.”