Monday 19 February 2018

Champion field to lure big crowd


Jockey Ryan Moore. Photo: Sportsfile
Jockey Ryan Moore. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Even the great Sea The Stars was not enough to attract a five-figure attendance to the 2009 Irish Champion Stakes but a crowd of around 14,000 is expected in Leopardstown today as Irish Champions Weekend, a concept born in 2014, kicks into action.

Leopardstown expects a minor shower or two, while the Curragh - which stages day two of the extravaganza tomorrow - might yet avoid the rain, though Leopardstown CEO Pat Keogh admits it will still have a say in the attendances.

"We're hoping for a similar crowd to recent years, in excess of 13,000," Keogh said. "Any rain we have shouldn't bother anyone and this is a very exciting day."

Churchill is the star act on day one in the feature Champion Stakes, with Ryan Moore jetting over to ride a brilliant horse named in honour of a compatriot who made quite a mark on the world stage too.

With Leopardstown to host its first 'Festival of Jumps' next February, the organisers then will be hoping to feed off the success of this weekend.

That will include an ability to attract overseas runners, particularly British ones given the favourable sterling-to-euro rate right now.

"It is very positive to see such a strong challenge from the leading British-based trainers," said Curragh chief Derek McGrath.

Irish Independent

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