There are certainly grounds to argue that the Irish Champion Stakes is the showpiece of the flat season so far, with numerous subplots built into the spectacle.
High-class contenders from England and France will descend of Leopardstown to take on the best of the Irish, it’s a clash of the generations, with the Classic-claiming three-year-olds taking on their elders, Minding and Found will be hoping to do it for the ladies and there are Group-1 winners in abundance.
Sticking with those towards the head of the betting has been a vital strategy in the last decade, with 7/1 the biggest-priced winner in this period, although few previous renewals get close to this one in terms of depth.
The fact that there hasn’t been a three-year-old victor since 1986 is another reason to have reservations about Minding (11/4), despite her trio of top-level successes at Epsom, the Curragh and Goodwood, with the latter pair coming over the Irish Champion Stakes distance of 1m2f.
Harzand (11/4) follows Aidan O’Brien’s filly in the betting, but both of his Group 1 triumphs have arrived over 1m4f and showcased plenty of stamina. Any rain will be in his favour, but it is not guaranteed that he has the speed for this.
Almanzor (11/2) leads the French charge and unlike Harzand, this contest seems to be at the limit of his stamina.
Christophe Soumillon’s ride is all about speed and will relish a slowly-run race. Waiting tactics have already proved successful twice over this distance in recent months, including when landing the French Derby.
However, the inclusion of Ebediyan as a probable pacemaker for Harzand is likely to mean that the early pace will be quick, which may blunt Almanzor’s potent turn of foot.
Of the remainder, Coral-Eclipse winner Hawkbill (16/1) should not be totally discounted after flopping in the Juddmonte International last time on unsuitably quick ground and New Bay (7/1) was third in the Arc last year and this is comfortably his favoured trip.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.