What are the best bets on Irish Champions Weekend?
There are not many weekends in the Irish racing calendar to match the one we have in store at Leopardstown and the Curragh on Saturday and Sunday.
At the former track the Irish Champion Stakes takes centre stage and – weather permitting – we could see Golden Horn and Gleneagles locking horns for a season-defining clash, though it is far from a match (more on that further down the page). On Sunday the Irish St Leger takes place as does the Moyglare Stud Stakes, always a big race for two-year-old fillies with Guineas credentials.
As for having a bet it could pay to be selective (and especially with the ground being a big imponderable) and, with that in mind, I’ve unearthed five horses who are well worth an interest at decent odds in their respective races, starting with the aforementioned Irish Champion Stakes (due off 5.45pm).
FREE EAGLE @ 3/1 bet365
Derby/Eclipse hero Golden Horn is clearly the one to beat and he’s a firm 2/1 favourite with bookmakers, but he’s not unbeatable by any means – as we found out in the Juddmonte – and Dermot Weld’s runner could be the one to lower his colours. The fragile four-year-old has been trained with this race in mind since his excellent victory in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he may not have been fully fit, and it’s worth remembering he turned up at this meeting 12 months ago after a similar absence to rout his rivals in the Enterprise Stakes. He wouldn’t want the ground too testing, so it’s hoped the course doesn’t get too much of a drenching over Friday night and, in that eventuality, he may be one of several scratchings – Gleneagles wants genuine good ground to take part, while the favourite won’t be risked if it’s any worse than “good to soft.”
SIR ISAAC NEWTON @ 4/1 Betfair
Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-old has Ben restricted to just three runs this term and hasn’t been seen since finishing an unlucky sixth in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he failed to get a clear run. However, he remains a horse of huge potential and, having been freshened up since, it would be no surprise to see him take Saturday’s Group 2 Boomerang Stakes (6.50pm) en route to a possible crack at the Champion Stakes run at Ascot in October. The caveat being he’s twice been beaten at odds-on on ground with cut in it and he too may not run if it became testing.
CASSELLS ROCK @ SP
The third horse of the quintet is only third reserve for Saturday’s “Petingo” Stakes (4.40pm) so needs three horses to drop out to get a run. With a going change almost inevitable (currently “good to firm”) that seems likely and Tony Martin’s would then be something to bet on. The five-year-old finished second in this race 12 months ago and his shrewd handler has protected his handicap mark since, warming up for this with a solid run over hurdles at Down Royal. He loves to get his toe in so the more rain the better.
SECOND STEP @ 10/1 Paddy Power
Moving on to the Curragh on Sunday and the feature Irish St Leger (4.50pm), which has been boosted by the participation of Order Of St George, who has been taken out of the British equivalent at Doncaster. That’s a real kick in the teeth for ante post punters and trying to work out where the Ballydoyle horses are going to run – never mind win – is a job in itself. Part of me (the jumps-lover part) hopes he gets stuffed here and I’m reasonably confident that Luca Cumani’s runner can at least give him a race. He stayed on well to land a German Group 1 last time and before that he was just touched off by subsequent Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange at Newmarket. His style of racing suggests he will relish today’s longer trip and in Jamie Spencer he has the perfect pilot to deliver a late challenge.
GREEN LIGHT @ SP
Sunday’s concluding “Northfields” Handicap (5.55pm) looks a minefield at first glance, but I’ve been of the opinion for a while that Ralph Beckett’s four-year-old had a decent pot in him and today could be the day. Since winning a fair handicap on soft at Nottingham in May, he’s continued to run well and looked a shade unlucky when finishing fourth at Sandown last time after not getting the best of passages through the race. Jamie Spencer takes over from a 5lb claimer and the in-form Beckett will not be travelling over with him if he didn’t think he had a chance. Any rain that falls will be in favour as he loves getting his toe in.
The luck of the Irish to y’all!