Eminent and Dettori set for Churchill clash in Champion
In danger of becoming a rather underwhelming renewal, Saturday's Qipco Irish Champion Stakes got a massive boost yesterday when the English trainer Martyn Meade confirmed that Eminent will partake.
With Churchill odds-on in the antepost wagering, Ulysses and Barney Roy having been ruled out, he looked very likely to go off at a short price if Eminent, which ran a big race in the Epsom Derby and won in France last time, did not make the journey to Dublin.
The son of Frankel enjoyed a confidence-boosting success in last month's Prix Guillaume d'Ornano at Deauville.
Meade was initially keen on a return to France for a tilt at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, but an appearance on Irish Champions Weekend now appears likely.
"We've left him in and a lot will depend on what else is going to run, but there's definitely a strong possibility we'll let him go," said the Newmarket handler.
"It will be down to what else is declared on Thursday. I'm happy to take on Churchill, but there's Winter there as well, so we'll see.
"We're seriously considering it. The horse is in very good form and Frankie Dettori is booked to ride. I think the win in France did the horse a lot of good."
With the Arc taking place three weeks after the Irish Champion Stakes, it is not inconceivable Eminent could run in both, but Meade added: "I think if he runs on Saturday it might be his last run (of the season)."
Eminent is one of 14 horses still in contention for the 10-furlong Group One showpiece.
Dual 2,000 Guineas hero Churchill and his dual 1,000 Guineas-winning stablemate Winter are among six possible runners for Aidan O'Brien, along with Cliffs Of Moher, Lancaster Bomber, Taj Mahal and Hydrangea. The other potential British challengers are Decorated Knight and Benbatl.
Moonlight Magic, Success Days, The Grey Gatsby and Zhukova make up the field.
Aidan O'Brien will wait on the weather to see what race Winter runs in. "We are not sure at the moment, we just want to wait to see how soft it gets," he said.
"The plan is to run Churchill and in an ideal world he wouldn't want heavy ground. Winter could run in the Matron or Champion. I suppose you'd prefer that. The plan is that Clemmie will run on Sunday but neither she nor Gustav Klimt would want it heavy."
Gustav Klimt, another son of Galileo, is the star attraction among 18 remaining possibles in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at the Curragh. Winner of the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket, the Galileo colt is prominent in the betting for next season's Classics.
He could be joined by his stablemates Berkeley Square, Bond Street, Coat Of Arms, Delano Roosevelt, Fleet Review, Mendelssohn, Nelson, Rostropovich, Seahenge and US Navy Flag as O'Brien aims to extend his great record in the race. Beckford is likely to be the main non-O'Brien-trained contender for Gordon Elliott.
Jessica Harrington's Brother Bear brings Group form to the table, while Ger Lyons' Lethal Steps and Ken Condon's Romanised are other possibles.
Meanwhile, Betfair Sportsbook makes Coneygree 5/2 favourite for the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel on this day week.
Last evening was a good one for Colin Keane at Laytown, as he rode a double to strengthen his lead at the top of the Flat jockeys' title race, with victories aboard Silk Cravat and Red All Star.