This year’s Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown is set to be one of the most eagerly anticipated contests of recent years, let alone this season.
Throw in the likes of Minding, Harzand and New Bay and you’ve got yourself a cracking contest that’s sure to be enjoyed on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Here are a few of the top storylines and sub-plots…
1) Top Level tally
Between them, the field has won 19 Group 1s, collected across the globe, from Hong Kong to America, Britain, Ireland and France. Seven of those victories were in Classic races. (Irish Derby, Epsom Derby, Oaks, 1000 Guineas and 3 x French Derby).
2) Arc Watch
The Irish Champion Stakes is among the top five highest rated flat races in the world, alongside the Breeder’s Cup and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Two entries, Found and New Bay have already contested the Arc and over half of Saturday’s field hold entries for this year’s edition in Chantily. Three Irish Champion Stakes winners this decade, Golden Horn, Sea The Stars and Dylan Thomas, have gone on to win the flat season highlight in France.
3) Show Me The Money
Together, the runners have earned £14,392,158 (just over €17 million). The highest earner in the field is five-year old The Grey Gatsby whose career earnings amount to £2,674,435.
He’s closely followed by four-year-old Highland Reel, who’s earned £2,628,642. €1.25m is the purse for the Champions weekend feature.
4) Price Tags
Of the runners who were purchased at private auction, Sir Isaac Newton was the most expensive, with a price tag of 3,600,000 GNS (which equals just shy of €4.5M).
Meanwhile, the cheapest was Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner, My Dream Boat, who cost just £40,000.
The first edition of this race was won by a French colt, Malacate, trained by Francois Boutin.
Suave Dancer was the last French winner of the race, 25 years ago. New Bay and Almanzor are hoping to end that drought.
Last year’s French Derby winner New Bay was disappointing on his seasonal reappearance, due to an issue with his foot and unfavourable ground conditions. However, he bounced backed with a nice Group 3 win in Deauville and is reportedly in good order according to his handler Andre Fabre.
This year’s French Derby winner, Almanzor looked in good shape arriving via private jet on Thursday. The Jean Claude-Rouget-trained colt warmed up for his Leopardstown outing winning a Group 2 in mid-August.
6) Quality AND Quantity
With 13 runners, this will be the largest field in over 25 years. The biggest field this decade was in 2009, when Sea The Stars successfully beat 8 other rivals. Six of the runners hold an offical rating of 120 or over. Dual Derby hero Harzand is the highest, with a rating of 123.
7) Femme Fatale?
In the last five years, the spoils went by way of the female contenders twice – Snow Fairy in 2012 and The Fugue in 2013.
Oaks and 1000 Guineas winner Minding has won 4/5 this season, but takes on the boys for the first time. Found has already disposed of the best male company around, when she beat last year’s Cartier Horse of the Year, Golden Horn in the Breeders’ Cup Turf 2015, and this seems to be her time of year..
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing