After a trio of Breeders’ Cup Challenge events at Leopardstown Saturday, Irish Champions Weekend concludes Sunday with another outstanding program at the Curragh, including two “Win & You’re In” races. Amazingly but not surprisingly, Aidan O’Brien has a realistic shot of sweeping all five Group events.
The Moyglare Stud (G1), offering a berth to the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), is nearly surrounded by O’Brien runners. Not only does the master of Ballydoyle send out half of the 10-filly field, but the two market leaders and four of the top five betting choices.
Magical was the 11-1 longest shot of the O’Brien trio in the August 20 Debutante (G2), but the pacesetter kept on motoring to upstage Happily (second) and Chesham S. star September (fourth as the favorite). Soft ground prevailed in that prep over the Moyglare course and seven-furlong distance, and similar conditions are in store Sunday, propelling Magical to early favoritism.
Yet Ryan Moore hasn’t chosen any of the Debutante alumnae, instead maintaining his partnership with Churchill’s full sister, Clemmie. Since her seventh in the Albany (G3), Clemmie has progressed to break her maiden in the Grangecon Stud (G3) and stamp her class in the Duchess of Cambridge (G2). Rounding out the O’Brien quintet is Ballet Shoes, winner of the Ivawood S. two back at Tipperary but overturned at odds-on in the Flame of Tara.
The likeliest to disrupt the Ballydoyle junta is Alpha Centauri. Trained by Jessica Harrington, the Niarchos Family homebred twice brushed aside O’Brien’s useful Actress before missing by a neck as the favorite in Royal Ascot’s Albany. Another with considerable upside is Chiara Luna, a homebred for the race sponsor who scored on debut over six furlongs. The going is a question for the Dermot Weld pupil. The Eddie Lynam-trained Muirin is in a similar position, having won at first asking over this track and trip but on good-to-firm.
O’Brien has the same percentage – half of the field – in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1), the open contest for juveniles at seven furlongs. Moreover, he has the odds-on favorite in Gustav Klimt, who gained many fans in the wake of his trouble-defying victory in the Superlative (G2) during Newmarket’s July Festival. Frankel’s son Rostropovich just prevailed over maiden stablemate Coat of Arms, with Berkeley Square third, in the course-and-distance Futurity (G2).
The chief danger is Beckford from the yard of Gordon Elliott. Victorious over Verbal Dexterity in the Railway (G2), Beckford was a staying-on second to Sioux Nation in the Phoenix (G1). The step up from six to seven furlongs should suit him. The Harrington-trained Brother Bear was an early-season standout, but a fourth in the Coventry (G2) and third in the Anglesey (G3) imply he’s been overtaken on the developmental curve. But those losses did come on firmish ground, and a return to softer conditions could be the key.
O’Brien could be in line for a Group 1 triple on the card if odds-on Order of St George obliges in the Irish St Leger (G1). Although his eagerly awaited rematch with Gold Cup (G1) winner Big Orange was ruined by the rain, with that rival needing a sounder surface, there’s another story line available. Order of St George was upset by front-running Wicklow Brave as the defending champion in the 2016 Irish St Leger, and he can gain revenge.
His biggest challenges this time, however, are likelier to come from The Queen’s Dartmouth, hero of the Yorkshire Cup (G2) at this 1 3/4-mile trip and most recently a tough-beat second in the Lonsdale Cup (G2); Torcedor, who beat a ring-rusty Order of St George in the April 23 Vintage Crop (G3) prior to a fifth in the Gold Cup; and John Gosden’s Western Hymn, whose best effort this season was a score in the nearly 13 1/2-furlong Ormonde (G3). Gordon (G3) third Mount Moriah must step up at this level, but the three-year-old trounced an Ascot handicap in his only try at this distance.
One of the Group 2 events on Sunday is a “Win & You’re In,” the Flying Five (G2). In accordance with its name, the five-furlong dash attracts the pure speed set with Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) implications. O’Brien’s Commonwealth Cup (G1) hero Caravaggio would take all the beating if back to his best after suffering the first two losses of his career – possibly even run himself into the picture for Australia’s Everest (G1) again? Caspian Prince sprang the upset in the course-and-distance Sapphire (G2), edging Marsha, who later became famous internationally by denying Lady Aurelia in the Nunthorpe (G1).Del Mar is on his itinerary if he takes down Caravaggio too. Nunthorpe third Cotai Glory; defending champion Ardhoomey; and Gorane, who just captured the Abergwaun over Tipperary’s soft course, are others to note.
The Blandford (G2) for fillies and mares kicks off the Group action, and O’Brien is triple-handed with Irish Oaks (G1) and Pretty Polly (G1) runner-up Rain Goddess, successful in her latest in the Snow Fairy (G3); last year’s Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks (G1) conqueror Seventh Heaven, who would outclass this field if primed for her first start since her May 6 Jockey Club (G2) rout; and Alluringly, beaten by Enable in four Oaks this season.
Sea of Grace, second in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) (G1) and fourth in the Falmouth (G1), romped on the class drop in the Dick Hern and now stretches out for William Haggas. The Aga Khan’s homebred Shamreen seeks to repeat in the 1 1/4-mile affair, and enters in good heart after dismissing males in the course-and-distance Royal Whip (G3). South African celebrity Smart Call has yet to turn the corner in Europe, but the Sir Michael Stoute mare was a better fourth in the Prix Jean Romanet (G1) last time.