After Saturday’s Irish Champion Stakes (G1) highlights a superb card at Leopardstown, the Curragh stages an action-packed day two of Irish Champions Weekend on Sunday. Two of the Group 1s are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events, but all of the stakes have international ramifications.
Flying Five – BC WAYI
The Flying Five Stakes (G1), part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series for the Turf Sprint (G1), has attracted 15 speedsters. If 5-furlong supremo Battaash isn’t here, his form overshadows the race. Glass Slippers and Liberty Beach were respectively second and fourth to Battaash in the July 31 King George (G2) at Glorious Goodwood, while three were last seen chasing him in the Aug. 21 Nunthorpe (G1) at York – runner-up Que Amoro, fourth A’Ali, and fifth Kurious. Equilateral was also best-of-the-rest behind stablemate Battaash earlier this summer in the King’s Stand (G1) at Royal Ascot.
Glass Slippers warrants added respect as the reigning Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) heroine, as does A’Ali as a course-and-distance winner of the July 19 Sapphire (G2) over Make a Challenge. Local celebrity Make a Challenge has come back to land a pair of listed stakes. Others to note include Sonaiyla, whose three-race winning streak was snapped by a neck in the Aug. 9 Phoenix Sprint (G3), and Keep Busy who’s lived up to her name and picks up Ryan Moore.
Moyglare Stud – BC WAYI
The Moyglare Stud Stakes (G1) furnishes a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), and the O’Brien clan fields the major players. Pretty Gorgeous, trained by Joseph O’Brien for John C. Oxley, is favored to follow up on her convincing Debutante (G2) victory at this track and 7-furlong trip. Donnacha O’Brien’s Shale, second as the Debutante favorite, had beaten Pretty Gorgeous two back in the Silver Flash (G3) at Leopardstown. Father Aidan O’Brien has three chances with Flame of Tara (G3) scorer Divinely, a full sister to Found; Debutante third Mother Earth; and Snowfall, who has more to find on form.
Ken Condon is double-handed with Teresa Mendoza, upset as the favorite versus males in the Round Tower (G3), and debut winner Thunder Beauty. Jim Bolger also has a first-out victress in Aunty Bridy, while Dermot Weld’s A Ma Chere and Jessica Harrington’s Oodnadatta exit a third and fifth to Shale in the Silver Flash. The Fozzy Stack-trained Bubbles on Ice reverts to her own division after finishing sixth among the colts in the Phoenix (G1).
Vincent O’Brien National
Phoenix winner Lucky Vega aims to interrupt the Ballydoyle vs. Godolphin rivalry in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1), where the clash of Battleground and Master of the Seas looms large. For the past two years, Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby has successfully poached this juvenile prize with Quorto (2018) and Pinatubo (2019), and Master of the Seas likewise sports an unbeaten record going into his Curragh raid. His resume exactly mirrors Quorto, as a son of Dubawi who’s 2-for-2 at Newmarket after taking the Superlative (G2).
But Battleground’s arguably better than Ballydoyle’s other recent hopes in this race. The first foal from Found, the War Front colt broke his maiden in the Chesham at Royal Ascot and added Glorious Goodwood’s Vintage (G2). Aidan O’Brien has back-up in the form of Military Style, who stole the Tyros (G3); St Mark’s Basilica, fifth in the Phoenix and most recently a maiden winner; and Wembley who finally scored in his fourth try.
Joseph O’Brien dispatches Thunder Moon, an impressive debut winner over this course and 7-furlong distance. Condon’s Laws of Indices, who pulled a 66-1 shocker over Harrington’s Lucky Vega in the Railway (G2), was later fourth in the Phoenix. Mac Swiney upset the Futurity (G2) in his latest for Bolger, while Juddmonte homebred Masen was a solid third in the Tyros for Ger Lyons. John Joseph Murphy’s Charterhouse, who missed narrowly to Masen in their mutual debut and checked in fourth in the Tyros, came right back to break his maiden.
Just as the National figures to have Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) repercussions without being a Challenge race, so does the Blandford Stakes (G2) stand to inform the Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Ballydoyle globetrotter Magic Wand hopes the ground doesn’t get any worse than good-to-yielding as she concedes six pounds to some smart sophomores.
Cayenne Pepper, runner-up in both the Irish Oaks (G1) and Give Thanks (G3), is entitled to prosper on the cutback to 1 1/4 miles. The same goes for her Harrington stablemate One Voice, who was just denied in the Nassau (G1) but a tiring third behind Love in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1). Joseph O’Brien’s Thundering Nights steps up in class following a new career high in the Snow Fairy Fillies’ S. (G3), where she upstaged Albigna. Weld calls upon the Aga Khan’s maiden winner Zawara, who toppled Derby (G1) third Amhran Na Bhfiann, as well as Amma Grace. Lyons’ Lemista extended her winning skein to four in the Kilboy Estate (G2), and British shipper Gold Wand likewise defeated elders in the Galtres at York.
Irish St Leger
Gold Wand’s trainer, Roger Varian, is also sending over Fujaira Prince for the Irish St Leger (G1). The sparingly raced 6-year-old makes his Group 1 debut after two dynamic performances in handicaps, shrugging off a year-long layoff to hack up at Royal Ascot and prevailing in the Ebor.
The 1 3/4-mile Irish St Leger is likelier to have more Melbourne Cup (G1) than Breeders’ Cup angles. Fujaira Prince’s main rivals include Ballydoyle’s 2019 Irish Derby (G1) upsetter Sovereign, most recently second to Enable in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1); Irish Oaks third Passion, the full sister to Capri who enjoyed the hike in trip in the Stanerra (G3) last out; Weld’s defending champion Search for a Song; and Twilight Payment, who just romped in his Curragh Cup (G2) repeat for Joseph O’Brien.
First post is 9 a.m. (ET) Sunday, and the Blandford begins the stakes sequence at 9:35 a.m. The “Win and You’re In” races are back to back, the Flying Five at 10:10 a.m. and Moyglare at 10:40. Next come the National at 11:10 and Irish St Leger at 11:40. Irish Champions Weekend concludes with the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction sales race for juveniles and a 1 1/4-mile premier handicap.