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A weekend that will convert the doubters

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'We could see English and Irish Derby winner Harzand (p) take on the French victor, Almanzor.' Photo: Sportsfile

'We could see English and Irish Derby winner Harzand (p) take on the French victor, Almanzor.' Photo: Sportsfile

'We could see English and Irish Derby winner Harzand (p) take on the French victor, Almanzor.' Photo: Sportsfile

Irish Champions Weekend is now just over a week away and it is a tense time for all involved, from the trainers all the way to those promoting Ireland's marquee flat racing fixture.

This was created to become a weekend that stops racing fans in their tracks and make them beat down the doors at Leopardstown and the Curragh, while mixing with a social crowd who simply want a good day out with racing on the side.

In jump racing the Punchestown Festival would be disappointed if they didn't get over 25,000 people through the gates later in the week of their five-day festival whereas a similar figure for Irish Champions Weekend would be deemed a positive.

Flat racing has never attracted the same attention as the national hunt code but it could be about time it does - even if it is just for one weekend only.

Huge work has gone into creating, supporting and pushing Irish Champions Weekend and it is a credit to those behind it that it is shaping up to be a very memorable two days.

If you have your doubts about flat racing, a day out at Leopardstown or the Curragh's next meeting (or both) could change your mind.

The Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday week could go down as one of the all time greats. Ground permitting, we could see English and Irish Derby winner Harzand take on the French victor, Almanzor, while edging her way to favouritism at the moment is sensational filly Minding, who looks on course to take on the colts.

Add in the likes of Fascinating Rock, Hawkbill, Success Days and The Grey Gatsby, who famously beat Australia in the 2014 renewal, and you have a race arguably boasting the most depth of any Group One in Ireland for many, many years.

Support

Leopardstown will also stage the Matron Stakes for fillies and some interesting races on the support card, which is likely to include Awtaad, the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner.

The Curragh will host the final Classic of the Irish season with Order Of St George, the highest rated horse in the country, looking to win the race for a second time.

A possible tilt at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe could be on his agenda after the Irish St Leger so it will be fascinating to see how he fares.

Complementing some of the leading stayers in the sport is the prospect of seeing some of the best juveniles around in the National Stakes and the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

Both races have produced future Classic winners in recent years and you can guarantee that the winners on Sunday week will go into the winter months very prominent in the betting for the 2,000 or 1,000 Guineas of next May.

There is plenty going on off the track as well and the Curragh Trail is one of the highlights as people can book in to get a behind the scenes look at what goes on every morning on the world renowned Curragh training grounds, where the likes of John Oxx, Dermot Weld and Adrian Keatley willopen their doors. See irishchampionsweekend.ie for info. It is highly recommended and free of charge.


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