Irish Champions weekend: Matron offers berth to BC Filly & Mare Turf
Euro Charline, pictured at Arlington last month, courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.
Whatever transpires in the signature event, Saturday's Irish Champion (G1), the two-day Irish Champions weekend is a feast with implications for both the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) and the Breeders' Cup.
Saturday's program at Leopardstown features three Breeders' Cup Challenge events. Aside from the Irish Champion, a "Win and You're In" for the Turf, the Juvenile (G3) is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), and the Matron (G1) offers the same incentives for the Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Sunday's card at the Curragh is highlighted by the Irish St Leger (G1), but the "Win and You're In" is the Moyglare Stud (G1) for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).
Here's the two-part overview of Irish Champions weekend, with post times:
The 1ST race (10:30 a.m. EDT) is a seven-furlong maiden for two-year-old fillies, worth watching for the presence of Coolmore. Her name is the tip, as they'd say. A full sister to Gleneagles and Marvellous, Coolmore is by Galileo and out of a Group 2-winning full sister to Giant's Causeway. Aidan O'Brien's youngsters tend to move forward second time out, and judging by her closing third on debut, she ought to get the job done here.
The one-mile Juvenile (G3) (11:05 a.m. EDT) has lured promising types from the usual places. Dermot Weld sends out impressive Galway maiden winner True Solitaire, Jim Bolger's duo is led by Tyros (G3) runner-up Sanus Per Aquam, and O'Brien is represented by Shogun (who'd prefer better ground) and Johannes Vermeer. Rockaway Valley has been fairly consistent but exposed by this point, as has Waipu Cove, who just beat the less-experienced Play the Game in the Canford Cliffs. A longshot who could make his presence felt is Blue de Vega, a troubled third as the favorite in a good maiden at Dundalk last week.
The 3RD race is a 1 3/4-mile premier handicap (11:40 a.m. EDT).
The Enterprise (G3) (12:15 p.m. EDT), upped in trip 1 1/2 miles this time, boasts a small but competitive field. The O'Brien-trained John F Kennedy is on a retrieval mission after flopping on the Derby (G1) trail this spring. In contrast, Answered has been in terrific form this season, romping in the Martin Molony and finishing second to Forgotten Rules in the Vintage Crop (G3) and Irish Champion runner Found in the Royal Whip (G3). Fascinating Rock has performed well at this venue, and has the class as a near-misser to Al Kazeem in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1), but he's yet to prosper at 12 furlongs. Elleval, last seen finishing fifth in the Arlington Million (G1), placed in the past two runnings of this race, but the 1 1/4-mile specialist is entering new territory at this distance. Panama Hat is likewise resuming after a jaunt to Arlington, where he finished second to Lucky Speed in the American St Leger (G3). Connections have chosen this in preference to a red-hot renewal of the Irish St Leger.
The Irish Champion (G1) (12:45 p.m. EDT) is previewed here.
The Matron (G1) (1:20 p.m. EDT) serves up a generational clash between outstanding sophomore filly Legatissimo and older stars Amazing Maria and Euro Charline. Legatissimo returns to a mile here for the first time since her barnstorming victory in Newmarket's 1000 Guineas (G1) on the first Sunday in May. After missing by a head in both the Epsom Oaks (G1) and the Pretty Polly (G1) (in which Secret Gesture, first-past-the-post in the Beverly D. [G1], was fourth), Legatissimo bounced back with a vengeance in the Nassau (G1) at Glorious Goodwood. The third-placer in the Nassau, Arabian Queen, came back to shock hitherto unbeaten colt Golden Horn in the Juddmonte International (G1). Of course, using Arabian Queen as a form guide isn't straightforward, for she'd previously finished last behind Amazing Maria and Euro Charline in the Falmouth (G1). Euro Charline has yet to win since her smasher in last year's Beverly D., but the Team Valor runner has had viable reasons along the way while still performing creditably. Amazing Maria, on the other hand, is better than ever and riding a three-race win streak. Unlike Euro Charline, Amazing Maria won't mind if the ground turns soft. Longshots worth knowing here are the Aga Khan's homebred Raydara, who's finally rounding into form, and soft-ground aficionado Iveagh Gardens, who upset Found in the Athasi (G3) back in May. French shipper Cladocera and Brooch wouldn't be a surprise, but they do have to improve off their recent efforts. Ainippe has been supplemented in the wake of two Group 3 scores over her elders.
The Boomerang (G2) (1:50 p.m. EDT) is the destination chosen by onetime Woodbine Mile (G1) candidate Lightning Spear. The Qatar Racing colorbearer has rocketed up from the handicap ranks and acquitted himself well in much better company this summer, chasing Cox Plate (G1) threat Arod in Ascot's Summer Mile (G2) and most recently finishing fourth in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) at Deauville. Also on an upward curve is Onenightidreamed, last seen landing the Amethyst (G3) here over this one-mile trip in May. O'Brien fields three entrants -- the ambitiously campaigned Cougar Mountain, winner of the Desmond (G3) at this track and trip two back; $6 million yearling Sir Isaac Newton, Secret Gesture's full brother, who's been off since a messy sixth in the Jersey (G3); and the underachieving War Envoy. Admirable veterans Custom Cut and Top Notch Tonto, along with smart three-year-old Convergence, add to the contentious group.
The 8TH race (2:20 p.m. EDT) is a seven-furlong premier handicap.
Sunday's preview is the next post...