Friday 18 January 2019

Champs weekend ticks all the boxes

Football had the World Cup in the summer (and what a tournament that was), the Ryder Cup is all the rage for anyone with a passing interest in golf, and that will be a gripping weekend in a fortnight's time, and what about the finale to both the All-Ireland Hurling and Football Championships ... we couldn't really ask for much more.

But now that the inaugural Irish Champions Weekend is almost upon us, and the full entries are out, it's hard not to get geed up by the prospect of what is a major weekend in Irish racing.

Obviously, the prospect of seeing Australia in action and all his glory again is enough to light up any weekend, and although it is being billed that Al Kazeem and The Grey Gatsby are going to make the Irish Champions Stakes a race of it, you'd still feel the dual Derby winner is set to eclipse his rivals and set himself up for an interesting conclusion to the season and possibly his career.

There is a fear that Ballydoyle could indeed win all five of the Group Ones over the two days but the word fear is used only in a manner that this weekend is the showcase of Irish racing and when showcasing anything you don't ideally want dominance.


But, on the otherhand, if Aidan O'Brien and his team are going to be that dominant this weekend they are going to have to earn it.

Okay, Australia looks a good thing, and Tapestry is a worthy favourite for the Matron Stakes but the likes of Rizeena will have something to say about that.

In the St Leger, Leading Light will prove extremely hard to beat but Dermot Weld could have anything up his sleeve in Forgotten Rules, and the two-year-olds Gleneagles (National Stakes) and Found (Moyglare Stakes) are also likely to head bookmakers' lists, but those races could throw up the biggest surprises.

With a weekend like this, it is unsurprising that there's plenty going on off the track, but the most important thing is the quality on offer between the white rails and that looks to be right up there.

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