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Niall Cronin: Only elite need apply for Champions Weekend action





Entries for Longines Irish Champions Weekend were narrowed down to intended runners yesterday and anyone involved with the weekend must have been delighted with the sight of the horses that remain.

Saturday's QIPCO Irish Champions Stakes won't have double figure runners, but it doesn't need it. Each of the nine remaining in the race are Group One winners and the clash of Gleneagles, Golden Horn and Free Eagle is still well and truly on ahead of tomorrow morning's declarations.

Indeed, not only are all of the Irish Champion Stakes entries winners at the top level but between them they have won 22 Group One races and also included are last year's winner The Grey Gatsby, French raider Cirrus Des Aigles, Aidan O'Brien's Highland Reel and a trio of high class fillies, Found, Legatissimo and Pleascach.

The Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes has been moved slightly later on Saturday's card to allow jockeys riding at the English St Leger meeting at Doncaster to make their way to Foxrock and 10 fillies remain in the running for this contest.

Trainer Ger Lyons has supplemented Ainippe to a field that also features David Wachman's Legatissimo.

A strong overseas entry is headed by David O'Meara's Royal Ascot and subsequent dual Group One winner Amazing Maria.

Also likely to make the trip is Marco Botti's globetrotting Euro Charline and Alain De Royer-Dupre may be represented by Cladocera.

Meanwhile, the Curragh are all set to stage three Group One races on the Sunday of Irish Champions Weekend and last year's winner Brown Panther is one of 16 going forward for the Palmerstown House Irish St Leger.

Aidan O'Brien has a strong hand in the English equivalent a day earlier and his Order Of St George, who also holds a Doncaster entry, is the only three-year-old in the line-up as leading staying horses Forgotten Rules, Kingfisher, Panama Hat and Agent Murphy all look likely to lock horns.

The best of juveniles and next year's leading Classic contenders will be crowned in Sunday's Moyglare Stud Stakes and Vincent O'Brien National Stakes.

Debutante Stakes winner Ballydoyle heads the Moyglare, while Blue Bayou and and Great Page head the raiding party.

Air Force Blue, Buratino, Final Frontier and Herald The Dawn may all combine for one of the most memorable juvenile races in the National Stakes.