It’s Ireland’s Champions Festival over the weekend – absolute top-grade action from Leopardstown on Saturday and The Curragh on Sunday. We’re looking here at three of Saturday’s highlights, on Irish Champion Stakes Day; Sept 9th.
No less than eight races, from 13.45 to 17.40.
White-hot competition, wonderful horses, and the very best trainers and jockeys. What’s not to like?
13.45 Kitty Rose @ 5/2
Jockey Billy Lee is one of my favourites on either side of the Irish Sea. Any sea in fact. He teams up here with the once-raced filly Kitty Rose, trained by Miss Natalie Lupini and an impressive scorer in a Naas maiden about a fortnight ago.
Aidan O’Brien runs a more experienced filly in Content, who beat another market hopeful here in a recent maiden – Ger Lyons’ Apricot Ice. The latter-named should show more improvement as it was her only run to date, and might well be the biggest danger to Kitty Rose in this Listed affair.
‘Kitty’ could be better boxed than in the nine stall but has 7 1/2 furlongs to organise herself. Showed plenty of dash at Naas, so certainly isn’t lacking the necessary gears. Her promise is undeniable, and she could be a very smart juvenile in the making.
15.20 King Of Steel @ 11/4
Roger Varian’s colt has enjoyed a magnificent season. Opening race of the campaign – second in the Epsom Derby, at 66/1. Jockey Kevin Stott set sail for home two out, but was reeled in late by Ryan Moore on Aidan O’Brien’s Auguste Rodin.
Dotted up subsequently in ‘the Ascot Derby’ (King Edward VII), before running a respectable, slightly distant third in the King George behind that titanic Hukum/Westover battle royal.
So on to today’s glorious feature, the Irish Champion Stakes. Auguste Rodin again opposes, a distant flop in the Ascot showpiece referred to above. ‘King’ would have ‘won’ the Derby at today’s trip of ten furlongs, if you follow the tenuous theory, so I’m expecting him to deal with whatever version of Auguste Rodin shows up.
Alflaila won a York Group 2 impressively last month and rates a massive danger in my book. Then there’s Nashwa – doing her best work at the death in the Juddmonte behind Mostahdaf – a winner in the same ownership of course as Alflaila.
This is a wonderful race littered with sensational scorers and timeless rivalries. King Of Steel can travel nicely into the contest for me and be produced by Stott in the closing stages for a momentous victory.
16.30 Adelaide River @ 13/8
It will be a surprise of some magnitude if a certain AP O’Brien doesn’t hit the back of the net over the weekend. I’m hoping his Adelaide River can take this middle-distance Group 3 prize whatever happens elsewhere.
Excellent second behind ‘Rodin’ in the Irish Derby, and a fabulous runner-up in a Longchamp Group 1 at this distance in mid-July. He’s in next weekend’s Betfred St Leger but I’m guessing this is his main target for now. Arc supplementary entry? Today will no doubt determine that.
Adelaide River gets 11lb from the 6-yr-old Al Aasy and it will be disappointing to me at least if he can’t keep the William Haggas raider at bay. He holds all the aces in my view and though fairly lightly-raced has improved steadily throughout the season.
He’s by one of Aidan’s Derby winners Australia, and while it might be fanciful to think this is at his mercy, he’s got an awful lot going for him.