Entries for the inaugural Irish Champions Weekend had a very international feel when revealed yesterday and the current highest-rated horse in training, Just A Way, was included in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes.
A total of 22 Group One winners are entered in the Leopardstown showpiece, which will take place on Saturday September 13, and in all there were an initial 61 entries.
Along with Just A Way, the Japan Cup runner-up Denim And Ruby, has also been given an entry for the Champion Stakes, which also includes Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Noble Mission, Al Kazeem and last year’s winner The Fugue, while odds-on Epsom Derby favourite Australia is also among the list of possibles. A Japanese- trained horse has never run in Ireland.
This year’s QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes will carry a prize of €1,000,000 and Leopardstown CEO Pat Keogh was understandably thrilled at the potential big names being attracted.
“We are absolutely delighted,” Keogh said. “The increased prize-money, made possible by QIPCO’s generous sponsorship and HRI’s financial support for the meeting, has enabled us to attract an international entry of outstanding quality, which has exceeded our loftiest ambitions.”
The €300,000 Palmerstown House Estate Irish St Leger is the highlight of the second day of Champions Weekend and 38 of the 73 horses among the first round of entries are trained overseas.
The race is a renowned Melbourne Cup trial and previous Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden is included as well as the likes of The Queen’s Estimate and Mick Halford’s Dubai Gold Cup winner Certerach who could well be Melbourne bound.
Curragh boss Paul Hensey commented: “The prize-money is up 50 per cent compared to last year and that has definitely had the desired effect in attracting all the top staying horses from Europse as well as a very welcome Japanese entry in Denim And Ruby”
Meanwhile, John Magnier has poured cold water on speculation that Geoffrey Chaucer is about to overshadow stable companion Australia in the Epsom Derby on Saturday week. Magnier said: “Aidan has made no secret of what we think about Australia and, as far as I know from talking to him recently, nothing has changed in that view.”
Magnier said Geoffrey Chaucer “was a big price” for Epsom, but added: “I would say the people in Ballydoyle would be surprised if Australia didn’t win, but racing’s not that straightforward always.”