Two of Ireland’s premier racetracks will host Longines Irish Champions Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
Day one of Irish Champions Weekend, which will be broadcast live in 137 territories, will see an eight-race card at Leopardstown in County Dublin, with the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes, the day’s and the weekend’s key race.
The Group 1 contest over one mile and two furlongs, the second-best race in the Longines World Thoroughbred Rankings in 2020, attracts a small but very select field for this year’s renewal, with two horses trained in France and England each respectively and three handled in Ireland.
French trainer Jean-Claude Rouget’s three-year-old star Vadeni, a five-length winner of the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) in early June and winner of the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, England, where he defeated Mishriff (who re-opposes on Saturday), is the current race favourite in the 7-runner €1 million race.
Another French horse, Fabrice Chappet’s Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris winner Onesto, will enforce the French challenge, while the much-traveled Mishriff will represent John and Thady Gosden and will be ridden by Irish champion flat jockey Colin Keane.
English trainer William Haggas has the 119-rated Alenquer in the field. The son of Adlerflug won the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh on his most recent visit to Ireland in May, and will be ridden by Tom Marquand.
Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore partners will lead the home defence, saddling three of the seven runners in the Group 1 contest.
Luxembourg, a son of Coolmore Stud stallion Camelot, will be the main Ballydoyle hope. The three-year-old, out of action for four months, successfully returned to racing when winning the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at The Curragh on his most recent start.
O’Brien’s quest for a fourth consecutive win in the race, and his 11th in total, will be strengthened by the presence of six-year-old Broome, a surprise winner of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, England, three starts back, and Stone Age, a colt that has been campaigned most recently in the US.
Stone Age, the son of the late Galileo, ran third behind Classic Causeway in the Grade 1 Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park on 9 July and was three-and-a-quarter lengths fifth behind Nations Pride in the Grade 1 Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes on his most recent trip to America.
The second Group 1 on Saturday at Leopardstown is the Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes over one mile, ranked as the world’s best fillies and mares’ race for the past number of years.
The 11-runner field will see this year’s Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas winner Homeless Songs return to action after a absence of more than three month.
Trained by former Belmont Stakes-winning handler Dermot Weld, the Moyglare Stud-owned filly achieved a five-and-a-half length success in the first Irish fillies Classic of the season at The Curragh last May.
Her main rivals will likely be the Jane Chapple-Hyam-conditioned Saffron Beach and Aidan O’Brien’s Tenebrism.
The four-year-old Saffron Beach claimed the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville, France, early last month, when having two-and-a-half lengths to spare over the Ballydoyle-trained Tenebrism, a daughter of Coolmore Stud stallion Caravaggio.
Longines Irish Champions Weekend photo