Monday 20 November 2017

Champion Stakes a race for the ages despite Rock withdrawal

Jockey Michael Kinane: race record
Jockey Michael Kinane: race record

Johnny Ward

Even without Fascinating Rock, there are nine Group One winners and five Classic winners among the 13 declared for tomorrow's Qipco Irish Champion Stakes.

The biggest field ever in the race since it left the Phoenix Park for Leopardstown will include a dual Oaks-Guineas heroine, a previous winner of the race, a King George winner, two French Derby winners, an Eclipse winner - and a dual Derby winner in Harzand.

That Harzand's stable ally Fascinating Rock misses out due to reportedly unsatisfactory blood tests - thus denying Frankie Dettori a chance to equal Michael Kinane's record seven wins in the €1.25m event - is the only reason to sulk. It is a minor one and it looks by far the best renewal of the race since High Chaparral scored in 2003.

Little wonder course boss Pat Keogh labelled the line-up "quite unbelievable". He added: "The French horses have all arrived at the track and it's great that it should be lovely weather on Saturday, around 16 degrees."

Qemah was one of those Gallic raiders and heads a field of eight in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes, Saturday's other Group 1. Dettori can at least look forward to Persuasive, perhaps her main threat.

The undercard sees a Group 3 KPMG Enterprise Stakes feature four runners rated 112 and up. US Army Ranger, touched off in the Derby, will have the assistance of Ryan Moore, who rides Minding in the feature.

Awtaad faces seven in the Group 2 Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes, while Douglas Macarthur will likely be short odds in the Willis Towers Watson Champions Juvenile Stakes.

Around 10mm is forecast today at Leopardstown, where it was warm and dry yesterday.

The inner track is good, good to firm in places; the Champion Stakes will be run on the outer track, which is slightly easier underfoot.

Jerry Hannon, who was promoted in a shake-up earlier this year, will provide on-course commentary on Saturday, with the legendary Dessie Scahill taking the Curragh on Sunday.

Irish Independent

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