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Van to strike twice

Irish Champion Stakes Day at Leopardstown is one of the premier fixtures on the flat calendar and tomorrow is not likely to disappoint.

A high-class field of six go to post for the 1m2f Group One contest and Aidan O'Brien is responsible for half the field including the race favourite Rip Van Winkle.

The four-year-old came back to winning ways last time at York when collaring Henry Cecil's Twice Over in the dying strides, and Cecil's five-year-old will again re-oppose in the Khalid Abdullah colours which will also be worn by Dermot Weld's representative Famous Name.

Rip Van Winkle is a deserving 4/6 favourite and is likely to be very heavily punted on by those who like a big bet at those sort of odds.

He has clearly put previous niggly issues behind him and was an impressive winner under an extremely confident Johnny Murtagh last time, while prior to that at Goodwood he was second to this season's best miler Canford Cliffs. Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco is going to make it interesting, while the other Ballydoyle runner Beethoven is likely to cut out the pace in front.

The bookmakers make Mark Johnston's Sea Lord a 10/1 shot and a bit of a positive mover yesterday on the back of a winning sequence of four, but it would be a poor enough reflection on this year's renewal if he was to win it.

There is little between Rip Van Winkle and Twice Over -- a half a length to be precise on their last meeting -- but that was arguably a snug half a length and expect the form to be maintained tomorrow.

The Matron Stakes is the chief supporting card where seven fillies will do battle, six of whom are three-year-olds with Spacious as the only older one in the field at five years of age.

Mick Channon's Music Show heads a competitive field at 2/1 in a race in which five of the seven have a real chance.

O'Brien's Lillie Langtry is next best at 11/4, while Dermot Weld's Irish 1000 Guineas winner Bethrah is 9/2 despite finishing in front of Music Show and Lillie Langtry at the Curragh.

Take a chance on Dermot Weld's filly who is already a course and distance winner, but is far from a confident selection for this Group One.

It could be a very big day for Colm O'Donoghue who has a massive chance for O'Brien in the Group One Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock. O'Donoghue often lives in the shadows of Murtagh but with the stable jockey and Seamie Heffernan both on duty in Foxrock, O'Donoghue has been called up to partner the electrifying Starspangledbanner.

Although priced short at 7/4, the horse can make up for a disappointing run at York last time, as he is running over a preferred six furlongs.

Matron Stakes

Music Show 2/1

Lillie Langtry 11/4

Bethrah 9/2

Spacious 11/2

Jacqueline Quest 9/1

Hen Night 20/1

Gile Na Greine 20/1

Irish Champion Stakes

Rip Van Winkle 4/6

Twice Over 7/2

Cape Blanco 6/1

Sea Lord 10/1

Famous Name 25/1

Beethoven 33/1

Haydock Sprint Cup

Starspangledbanner 7/4

Regal Parade 5/2

Kingsgate Native 8/1

Borderlescott 9/1

Lady Of The Desert 12/1

Markab 12/1

Rainfall 16/1

20/1 Bar


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