Another absorbing edition of Longines Irish Champions Weekend from Leopardstown and The Curragh did not disappoint in the Emerald Isle. The best Flat thoroughbreds in Ireland faced stiff competition from neighboring England in several races.
In the feature Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, Ghaiyyath who is rated the best Flat turf racehorse on Planet Earth had an Ebor Festival rematch with Magical. Given the way that the Godolphin owned British raider had comprehensively beaten the Aidan O’Brien trained mare at York less than a month prior, there was no reason to believe things would be different.
That was clearly what Ryan Moore, the number Ballydoyle stable jockey, thought as he ditched Magical to ride 2019 Grand Prix de Paris scorer Japan. However, different tactics produced a different result.
This was on home turf for Magical, though, and she had won the Irish Champion Stakes in impressive fashion 12 months earlier. She remained in training with O’Brien for another season after developing even more, and that decision taken by her owners Magnier, Smith and Tabor of the Coolmore set has really paid off.
Instead of letting Charlie Appleby’s Ghaiyyath set the pace without any hassle on the lead, Seamie Heffernan rode Magical to eyeball the British raider. That more positive and aggressive approach proved the undoing of the Sandown Eclipse and Juddmonte International winner.
Magical turned the tables on Ghiayyath with O’Brien stable companion Armory running a massive race as a 66/1 underdog in third behind, just holding French runner Sottsass and keeping him out of the show. It was a bad weekend for Jean-Claude Rouget with all of his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hopefuls getting beaten both here and at Longchamp in Paris.
The Irish Champion Stakes was again one of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. In other words, it’s “win and you’re in”, so Magical could now go to Keeneland for the Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 7. That was not the only qualifying race on Irish Champions Weekend either.
You can watch the Breeders’ Cup and bet live on horse racing at MansionBet throughout the two-day event. Potentially joining Magical stateside this fall are Johnny Murtagh’s Champers Elysees who scalped two European Classic winners in Peaceful and Fancy Blue to land the Group 1 Matron Stakes.
That theme of successful fillies and mares continued on into the Sunday of Irish Champions Weekend at The Curragh, but not before Jessica Harrington’s Champions Juvenile Stakes favourite Cadillac punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Champers Elysees, meanwhile, could emulate Iridessa who landed both the Matron and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf race last year.
The Curragh qualifiers for Keeneland were Kevin Ryan’s sprint sensation Glass Slippers, who bounced back with success in the Flying Five Stakes, and Moyglare Stud Stakes scorer Shale from the yard of fledgling trainer Donnacha O’Brien. These fillies receive invites to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and Juvenile Fillies Turf races respectively with Glass Slippers expected to defend her Prix de l’Abbaye crown at Longchamp next.