Irish Champions weekend gets underway at 1:45 at Leopardstown on Saturday afternoon with the feature race, the Irish Champion Stakes taking centre stage at 3:20. Our team of Racing experts have looked at the feature race and the excellent undercard and found 4 selections for the start of a superb weekend of Irish racing.
Leopardstown Racecourse 09/09/2023: 2:15 Champions Juvenile Stakes
Aiden O’Brien has won 6 of the last 10 renewals of this race, including with subsequent Derby winners Australia (2013) and Auguste Rodin (2022) and he looks to have another superb chance to add to that record with Diego Velazquez. This son of Frankel cost an eye-watering 2.4-million guineas at the Yearling sales last October, but he began to repay that investment with a very impressive 4-length win in a Curragh maiden last month. Despite ducking left at the start, he quickly recovered and hit the front at the 2-furlong pole under Ryan Moore and was able to pull clear of the field with ease in a reasonable time. At the time of writing, he is the current Antepost favourite for the 2024 Derby at Epsom and if he is to realise those ambitions, he should be capable of landing this in a similar manner to the recent victories of Australia and Auguste Rodin.
Diego Velazquez should win this race, but he doesn’t represent a great deal of value so there may also be some value in the Forecast markets, with several promising 2-year-olds likely to at least give him a race. Top of that list is Islandsinthestream, who ran a nice race in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh last month, shaping like a horse who will ultimately prefer a greater test of stamina. He has the highest rating of those with an official mark and the top speed figure of 95 that he recorded last time would suggest that he can win at this level, even if the favourite lives up to his lofty reputation.
Leopardstown Racecourse 09/09/2023: 2:45 Matron Stakes
Despite her relatively short price, it is very hard to get away from the claims of Tahiyra. She is a multiple Group 1 winner who has already landed both the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes this season. At these weights, she has 10lbs in hand on the rest of the field and it seems unlikely that Meditate will reverse the form from their meeting in the Guineas back in May. If there is a horse to give her a race, perhaps it will be the Ger Lyons trained Zarinsk, who has improved with every start this season and looks the more likely horse to find further improvement. It will be a big ask to get close to Tahiyra on these terms, but she is consistent and always seems to run her race, which would make her an attractive prospect for the forecast.
Leopardstown Racecourse 09/09/2023: 3:20 Irish Champion Stakes
On paper this looks to be an incredibly strong renewal. A case could be made for so many, but we have tried to approach it with a process of elimination. To start with, after such a poor showing in the King George at Ascot, we are happy to take on Auguste Rodin. Opposing Aiden O’Brien is never without risk, but he was beaten very easily at Ascot and even his Irish Derby success was not without incident and with his Epsom Derby win the only time that he has run to form this season, he doesn’t make any appeal. King of Steel was behind Auguste Rodin in the Derby, but he has taken his form to a new level since with an impressive win at Royal Ascot and a solid third placed finish behind Hukum at Ascot a month later. He makes the most appeal amongst the 3-year-olds, who have won 6 of the last 10 renewals of this race, but there are doubts over the strength of the Classic generation in 2023 and there looks to be some better value with the older horses this year.
Luxembourg is back to try and retain his crown, but he hasn’t looked to be in the same form since winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup in May and he may struggle to concede weight to the younger horses. Instead, we will take a chance on last years runner up Onesto. Trained by Fabrice Chappet, he was within a length of Luxembourg last year and he made a very pleasing return from an absence when 4th in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville last month. Frankie Dettori has been booked for the ride as he seeks to equal Mick Kinane’s record of 7 winning rides in this race and with fewer questions to answer than most of this field, he looks to be some fair each-way value.
Leopardstown Racecourse 09/09/2023: 4:30 Paddy Power Stakes
Consistent horses are in relatively short supply in this Group 3 contest and so the each-way value would look to be with Noel Meade’s Layfayette. A winner of 9 races, he has been running his race throughout the season, getting his head in front in Listed company at Limerick and then landing the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh last month. Although he was soundly beaten in this race 12-months ago, he wasn’t in the same form at that time, and he showed plenty of guts to get his head in front at the Curragh despite having to make up ground from the rear. After the Royal Whip Noel Meade indicated that this would be the plan and on these terms, he should go close.
Our team will be back on Sunday for a look at the second day of the Irish Champions weekend at the Curragh.