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Five Irish Breeders’ Cup ‘Win & You’re In' prep races on tap this weekend

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TwinSpires Staff

September 15th, 2018

Alpha Centauri (c) Photo courtesy of Ascot Twitter

by Dick Powell

Ireland has five races this weekend where the winners are guaranteed spots in their respective Breeders’ Cup races thanks to the “Win & You’re In” Challenge series. Three will be held on Saturday at Leopardstown and the two on Sunday will be held at The Curragh.

The overall theme of Irish racing this summer is that the Aidan O’Brien juggernaut has been slowed down by a virus that spread through his yard. The perfect example is Mendelssohn, who tired unexpectedly in the Dwyer Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park but then shipped back for the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga and was a terrific second. O’Brien’s barn is heating up and he is known for winning in bunches.

JUVENILE STAKES (IRE-G2)

The Juvenile Stakes (Ire-G2) will be run Saturday at a one-turn mile at Leopardstown, which is a left-handed course. The winner will receive a guaranteed berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Nine well-bred colts will enter the starting gate; Aidan O’Brien has entered three and his son Joseph has entered one.

All of Aidan’s runners are sired by Australia, who was by Galileo out of the great Ouija Board and won both the Epson (Eng-G1) and Irish Derby (Ire-G1) in 2014. He has three two-year-old winners in here and they look like they can take the next step to a mile against Group 1 company. Ryan Moore does not have a mount in the race so it looks like Aidan’s top chance is BROOME, who broke his maiden over yielding turf two starts back.

Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stables has had a good year and he sends out MADHMOON off a sharp win going this distance in his career debut over this turf course. He was very impressive doing it and is the early betting favorite.

Dermot Weld is one of the world’s great trainers and his MASAFF overcame a sluggish start to win going away here going this distance two months ago. Weld’s horses usually improve with a run behind them.

MATRON STAKES (IRE-G1)

The Matron Stakes (Ire-G1) on Saturday will be run at one mile and the winner receives a guaranteed berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). The heavy favorite in the field of seven will be ALPHA CENTAURI, who has won her last four Group 1 starts and beat males last out at Deauville. She can take her game on the road and win over any ground but her one start on this course came back in April when she was beaten by 10 lengths.

Aidan O’Brien has three sophomore fillies entered, all sired by Galileo and all out of outstanding female families. I dare say that if the three were packaged and sent to the Keeneland November Bloodstock Sale, they would bring over $10 million combined. Ryan Moore picked MAGICAL to ride off a win in a Group 2 going nine furlongs.

IRISH CHAMPION STAKES (IRE-G1)

The Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-G1) will see its winner receive a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). This year’s attracted a field of eight running for a purse of nearly $1.5 million, and Aidan O’Brien has four entered.

At the start of the flat racing season in Europe, the speculation was that SAXON WARRIOR could be the next big thing. He won all three starts at two and then came out and won the 2,000 Guineas (Eng-G1) going a flat mile. With that out of the way, it was expected that his stamina could carry him through the next two legs of the English Triple Crown but things went bad in the Epsom Derby (Eng-G1) as he ran into some traffic in the final furlong. It was thought he would bounce back in the Irish Derby (Ire-G1) but he was a close third behind two longshots as the odds-on favorite. O’Brien brought him back eight days later and Saxon Warrior missed by a neck in the Eclipse Stakes (Eng-G1) then was fourth seven weeks later in the Juddmonte International (Eng-G1) at York.

Which Saxon Warrior will show up today is anyone’s guess. ROARING LION had a habit of running erratically last year, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This year, he has been running straight and true, and the result has been two straight Group 1 wins and John Gosden has decided to keep up at 10 furlongs. He is the early favorite for Irish Champion and rightfully so.

French shipper STUDY OF MAN looks like he still has an upside and has won on any ground.

FLYING FIVE STAKES (IRE-G1)

The Irish Breeders’ Cup Challenge races will switch to the Curragh on Sunday with a pair of races with Breeders’ Cup guarantees. The Flying Five Stakes (Ire-G1) is worth over $418,000 in purse money and the winner gets a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Run at five furlongs down the straightaway, these horses are real specialists in Europe and seem to take turns winning and losing.

There are three outrageous longshots that have little chance to win – SON OF REST, GORANE and NOW YOU’RE TALKING. That leaves six live horses and they range from the three-year-old BATTLE OF JERICO to the 11-year-old TAKE COVER.

The early betting favorite is HAVANA GREY, who dominated the Sapphire Stakes (Ire-G2) three starts back going this distance. He tried to make all the running in the Nunthorpe Stakes (Eng-G1) last out and weakened late but he will be tough to run down if he can shake loose early.

Aidan O’Brien sends out SIOUX NATION, who won a Group 1 at two on this turf course and started his season with a win over Group 3 foes. Since then, he has been in against the best turf sprinters Europe has. A return to the Curragh might help him out and O’Brien adds blinkers. Ryan Moore rides back aboard the son of Scat Daddy.

Value might come from DIFFERENT LEAGUE, a three-year-old filly from Aidan O’Brien who will run in the familiar colors of Peter Brant. She didn’t run badly against older males in the King’s Stand Stakes G1 at Royal Ascot and was a good third in her prep for this at Tipperary.

MOYGLARE STUD STAKES (IRE-G1)

The fifth Irish race where the winner is guaranteed a spot in the Breeders’ Cup is the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Ire-G1) for juvenile fillies going seven furlongs. The winner will receive a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and Sunday’s race attracted a field of 10.

Aidan O’Brien has three entered, one of whom is the early betting favorite in JUST WONDERFUL, winner of a Group 3 here going a mile. The daughter of Dansili finishes from off the pace and gets Donnacha O’Brien back in the saddle.

Mark Johnston wins an enormous amount of two-year-old races and this year is no exception. MAIN EDITION is a blazing-fast daughter of Zoffany who has won four of her five career starts, including a pair of Group 3 wins. And, she picks up Frankie Dettori, who will have to figure out what to do from post 1.

Charlie Appleby has had a big year for Godolphin and is six-for-16 the past two weeks. BEYOND REASON is a daughter of Australia who won Group 3 and 2 contests at Deauville over soft going and will certainly be doing a rain dance before Sunday.

SKITTER SKATTER won a Group 3 at Leopardstown two starts back, then captured the Debutante Stakes (Ire-G2) at this course and distance by two easy lengths. She should be able to stalk the pace and make first run at the leaders with Ronan Whelan.

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