The Irish Champion Stakes is the main event on a brilliant card at Leopardstown on Saturday 12 September. This Group 1 takes place over 10-furlongs and it has attracted a small but classy field of six runners.
Ghaiyyath became Europe’s highest-rated horse when winning the Juddmonte at York in August and he could simply be head and shoulders above his opponents. But only one of the last 10 winners of the Irish Champion Stakes has won the Juddmonte in the same season. That statistic may not be enough to stop him, but it makes me want to take him on at odds-on.
Leo De Fury has done us one favour already this season, but he was disappointing when we tipped him up last time. He was well-beaten behind the re-opposing Armory on that occasion and shouldn’t be winning.
Armoury is the only representative from this year’s Classic generation, and 3-year-olds have won four of the last six editions of the Irish Champion Stakes. But he’s not proven himself one of the leading lights among his peers and he also shouldn’t be winning.
Aidan O’Brien looks to have two much better chances in Magical and Japan. Magical won last year’s renewal in a season where she won five times over 10-furlongs. But she was also beaten twice by Enable and Crystal Ocean, suggesting she is just behind the very best. That pattern has continued this season, when she followed two easy victories on home soil by finishing 3-lengths behind Ghaiyyath at York.
That defeat for Magical is probably the main reason why Ryan Moore has got off her to ride Japan. The 4-year-old put up some top performances last season, the highlight of which was his win in the 2019 Juddmonte International. But that race is over an extra half-a-furlong to this one and he needed every inch of that trip to overhaul Crystal Ocean. He’s also not been at his best so far this season and will probably need to surpass his previous best to win.
Sotsass looks the overpriced runner in the field at around 8/1 and the French raider is our Irish Champion Stakes tip. He’s run in a couple of muddling races so far this season but it’s interesting that his shrewd trainer sends him over after winning the 2016 edition with Almanzor. But it’s his run in last year’s Prix de ‘Arc de Triomphe that makes him look a value bet. Ghaiyyath folded after making the running that day, but Sotsass travelled like the best horse for most of the race until being outstayed by Waldgeist and Enable over that longer trip. In finishing third, he was one place in front of Japan, and I think he’ll love having the chance to track Ghaiyyath in a truly run race.
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