A sensational weekend of racing awaits with Grade 1 contests in three European countries alone – and something for every type of flat racing fan. This preview will focus on Saturday’s action from the first day of Irish Champions Weekend, and St Leger Day at Doncaster.
Irish Champions Weekend (Leopardstown, 1st race 12.40pm) and Cazoo St Leger (Doncaster, 1st race 1.15pm)
Live on ITV1 HD from 1.30pm and Racing TV from 12:30pm
Irish Champions Weekend, Day 1:
Small but select is the perfect description of the Irish Champion Stakes (2.45), where three of the best horses in training all meet. The returning St Mark’s Basilica – the outstanding early three-year-old of the season – faces the reigning Prix l’Opera and Breeders’ Cup winner Tarnawa, with 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace winner Poetic Flare in the mix alongside Patrick Sarsfield, the outsider of the field but rated 112 nonetheless.
It’s possible to make a case for each of the three big horses winning – Patrick Sarsfield is a very solid marker, but he’s been beaten in each of his six runs since taking the Meld Stakes last summer – and each of them are more than capable. With no obvious pace, Tarnawa – a strong stayer of 12 furlongs – may be most disadvantaged by the small field, whilst Poetic Flare could be value at 3/1 compared to the evens for St Mark’s Basilica, but St Mark’s was better suited by the false gallop in the French Guineas when the pair met earlier in the season (Poetic Flare didn’t get clear run) and maybe this race is best enjoyed.
The other Group 1 on the card is the Matron Stakes (1.40), where Mother Earth is a strong favourite after grinding out victory in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville last time. Her second to Snow Lantern in the Falmouth might be the strongest piece of form in the race and she ought to go well, but she’ll need to break nicely from stall 2 to avoid tactical trouble. She seems versatile enough to avoid that, but she doesn’t make much appeal at 5/4. Those playing on the race would be advised to look at Epona Plays, Dreamloper and Acanella as potential each/way options, but it looks a trappy betting contest.
The KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes (1.10) should be an eye-opening contest, as Point Lonsdale (himself favourite for the National Stakes on Sunday) will have his form tested as Maritime Wings, second in the Tyros and Futurity Stakes, bids to grab his own pattern prize. It’s understandable that he’s favourite but there’s a lot of potential in the field with Absolute Ruler, Buckaroo, Atomic Jones, Once Upon A River and John The Baptist all promising to improve (not to mention Stone Age, the pick of Ryan Moore) and it’s one for the formbook – for all that it’s a must watch race.
The card kicks off with the Ingabelle Stakes (12.40), where Jessie Harrington and Aidan O’Brien have the top two in the market with Corviglia and Lullaby. The latter named could be seen as the better long-term prospect after finishing fourth on her highly tried debut in the Flame of Tara Stakes (a lofty debut for a filly with entries in the Moyglare and Fillies’ Mile) but Corviglia could well be unbeaten if she’d had a decent surface on all her starts and she could be very well suited by the pace set up here.
She was ultra-impressive at Roscommon last time – following on from a course and distance win the time before, beating subsequent winner and reopposing rival Limiti De Greccio – when slamming Gwan So by four lengths with the previous Listed second Tuwaiq finishing seven lengths behind.
Gwan So did that form no harm when finishing a close – and slightly unlucky – third at Doncaster in the Flying Scotsman Stakes, and Corvigila could take the beating here if attacking the race from stall 2, with her key rivals (bar Lullaby) drawn in 10, 11, and 7.
The Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile looks very much up for grabs, with Mac Swiney looking to be the class act, but running on ground faster than ideal after a couple of well beaten efforts. A mile on decent ground could catch him out for speed and the rest of the runners, the majority of whom are only separated by 8lbs or so, aren’t entirely convincing.
The Paddy Power Stakes (3.15) sees a fascinating clash between Irish Derby fourth Earlswood, the lightly raced Innisfree, and Sir Lamorak (to name just three), with the latter chosen on his debut for Joseph O’Brien. Sir Lamorak was a disappointment in the Irish Derby but beforehand he’d been extremely progressive, and he was arguably unlucky not to take the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot when trying to give over a stone and a start to a lot of progressive improvers.
If back to his best, then he may be capable of serving it up to Earlswood, and 7/2 is a tempting price.
The two Premier Handicaps that close the card are brilliant contests which are just as fiendish as one would expect. In the ‘Petingo’ Handicap over 1m5f (3.45), Lafayette can give a bold sighting off top weight. A winner of the Irish Lincoln back in March, Noel Meade’s four-year-old is exceptionally versatile as regards trip and was a smooth winner of a Listed contest at Roscommon two starts ago. His latest run over 10 furlongs at the Curragh can be forgotten as he was interfered with, and he can give a serious each/way run for your money.
In the ‘Sovereign Path’ Handicap (4.20) Masen is an obvious choice but if Colin Keane can get him a decent position, then he’s capable of going close even off 104.
The Cazoo St Leger (3.35) could be at the mercy of Hurricane Lane, who has been one of the leading three-year-olds of the season with victories in the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris in contrasting style. He showed a brilliant attitude and no end of stamina to catch Lone Eagle at the Curragh, before obliterating his competition at Longchamp a few weeks later, launching himself into contention for the Arc in the eyes of many.
Those performances set an imposing standard for a horse whose only defeat came at Epsom in the Derby (lost both fore shoes) and he ought to take the beating if getting the trip, something which doesn’t look as if it’ll be a problem. However, this is all taken into account with a price of 8/11, and it makes more appeal to take one each/way against him.
There are more than a few horses with serious each/way cases, and the one with most appeal is Mojo Star. He was a shock second in the Derby when belying odds of 50/1, and nothing went right in the Irish Derby, when he was caught on the inside – ironically held in by Hurricane Lane, and then Wordsworth – being snatched up as William Buick made his winning charge.
His fifth that day can be written off, and a confidence booster afterwards to break his maiden could prove to be a masterstroke from connections, as he hadn’t got his head in front despite being rated 114. The form of the Derby – where Mojo Star was more than three lengths clear of Hurricane Lane – looks as good as we’ve seen from a recent renewal and if he can repeat that effort at the trip (a slight question mark with many milers on the dam-side of the pedigree, although Sea The Stars is a tremendous stamina influence) then on paper he shouldn’t be far away.
The Aidan O’Brien contingent are always hugely respected, although there are questions to answer for the shortest priced of them – High Definition – who was a fantastic third in the Dante at the beginning of the season before blowouts in the Irish Derby and the Great Voltigeur.
If he was to bounce back to his best in first time cheekpieces then he’d be a huge player, but there haven’t been many signs of that and the pair to concentrate on from Ballydoyle could be Sir Lucan – who may not have been at home around Goodwood before finding himself out sped by Yibir in the Great Voltigeur – and Interpretation, who’s unbeaten as a three year old and impressed in beating Fernando Vichi last time out.
The progressive Ottoman Emperor, who got the better of Sir Lucan, Third Realm, and Youth Spirit in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood, also looks a big player for Johnny Murtagh in what looks a competitive renewal.
The Park Stakes (3.00) looks upto standard this year with Danyah making the most appeal in a tight heat, and it’s a race that may be best left.
There’s an extremely exciting clash on paper in the Champagne Stakes (2.20) where The Queen’s Reach For The Moon takes on Qatar Racing’s Lusail, with the latter chosen to cause a small upset and spoil the Royal party.
Reach For The Moon – who was just beaten by the tremendously exciting Point Lonsdale in the Chesham Stakes – has impressed in winning a strong Newbury novice event before slamming his opposition In the Solario Stakes.
He’s a colt of great potential but Lusail – a winner of the July and the Gimcrack Stakes this season – had impressed with his attitude whilst he reached a notably high level in his July Stakes win. Second Asymmetric went onto win the Richmond Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and finish third in the Prix Morny, whilst fourth Ebro River took the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh, and Lusail then followed that up with a commanding performance under a penalty in the Gimcrack. A single pound separates the pair on official ratings and whilst Lusail has to carry a penalty here, he can make Reach For The Moon work hard for any victory – and 15/8 looks too big about his chances, especially if this run at a stop start gallop given his six furlong speed.
Bayside Boy looks a promising prospect for Roger Varian, although he must now find 10lbs or more with the top two on paper, and Twilight Jet is held on several formlines.
No winner of The Portland (1.45) would surprise, but Mondammej could be well treated off 93. Anthony Brittain’s much loved sprinter cruised into the opening contest of York’s Ebor Meeting only to get stopped at a crucial run whilst that day’s winner Copper Knight went clear on the far side, but he got his revenge with a clear run at Haydock recently, grabbing glory on the line a week ago.
He’ll need to back that effort up quickly but if he can do so, then he’s well treated off just a 3lbs higher mark and there’s surely going to be lots of pace to aim at here.
The opening nursery has far fewer runners but looks just as tricky, with Fall Of Rome, Thunder Legend, La Puglga, Magic Warrior and Desert Angel all having chances on their best form.
A high-quality card is bookended by two excellent handicaps. In the first of them over 1m4f, Title and Dark Jedi looked to be the right prices, and in the latter Raadobarg and Cruyff Turn made most appeal, although Raadobarg would be happier for easier ground whilst Cruyff Turn would be very much at home on a quicker surface.
BACK Corviglia 2 pts win in 12.40 Leopardstown at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
BACK Mondammej 1.5 pts each/way in 1.45 Doncaster at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
BACK Lusail 1 pt win in 2.20 Doncaster at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
BACK Sir Lamorak 2 pts win in 3.15 Leopardstown at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
BACK Mojo Star 2.5 pts each/way in 3.35 Doncaster at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
BACK Lafayette 1 pt each/way in 3.45 Leopardstown at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
BACK Masen 1 pt win in 4.20 Leopardstown at CLICK PRICE TO BET with starsports.bet
⚠️ Stakes advised on a scale of 0-10 points depending on confidence from our preview team
(Current ante-post recommendations CLICK HERE)