Dettori ready to 'Rock' for Weld as Harzand confirmed
Dermot Weld has said Harzand is a definite runner in Saturday's €1.25m Qipco Irish Champion Stakes, in which Frankie Dettori will be booked to ride stablemate Fascinating Rock.
One of the epic editions of the ten-furlong heat is now all but certain, with 17 standing their ground. Sir Isaac Newton's left-field supplementary yesterday means Aidan O'Brien could run as many as six.
Dettori - who won the race last year aboard Golden Horn - has six wins in the race, one shy of the record achieved by legendary former rival Mick Kinane. However, the baking autumnal Dublin heat of recent days renders him a slight doubt, Weld told the Irish Independent.
"Frankie will ride Fascinating Rock, while Pat Smullen will stay loyal to the dual Derby winner Harzand," said the legendary Curragh trainer, who remarkably has yet to win the Champion Stakes.
"Harzand is in great order and a definite runner but, funnily enough, it is Fascinating Rock who is a concern ground-wise. He's a big and heavy, weighing around 525kgs, and he'd really want an ease. At the moment, both run."
The addition of Sir Isaac Newton - which has fallen consistently short at the top level - was most unexpected and he has been introduced in the betting at 25/1.
Stablemate Minding remains a best-quote 9/4 favourite. She will aim to become the first three-year-old filly to win the Champion Stakes since 30 years ago when Park Express - the dam of 2008 winner New Approach - struck for Jim Bolger.
French invader New Bay will be among those taking on Minding in the Leopardstown showpiece.
Having failed to feature in the Prix d'Ispahan on his seasonal return at Chantilly in May, the Andre Fabre-trained four-year-old came back from a short break with victory in a Deauvile Group Three last month.
"New Bay is running in Ireland," said Fabre. "I think it is a nice race to try and win. The distance should suit him and we want to try and win another big race with him.
There is further potential French interest with Jean-Claude Rouget leaving in this year's French Derby winner Almanzor, while also among the entries are Jim Bolger's Moonlight Magic, previous winner The Grey Gatsby and Success Days representing Ken Condon.
Minding, meanwhile, remains among the dozen accepted for the Group One Coolmore Matron Stakes, a field headed by Qemah, but it is expected that Alice Springs and Somehow will represent Ballydoyle instead.
The Adrian Keatley-trained Jet Setting, which defeated Minding in the Irish 1000 Guineas, could bid for more Group One success while the French are well represented with Jean-Claude Rouget's Coronation Stakes winner Qemah and Francis Graffard's Volta.
The improving Persuasive, trained by John Gosden, could get her chance at the top level after progressing through the ranks in style with a perfect record of five out of five.
Speaking about his plans for Leopardstown, O'Brien explained: "It fits into the programme for Sir Isaac Newton and I am happy with how he is progressing.
"My team will all probably go their separate ways after this. I am not sure what is his best trip but he is progressing, and we just don't want to stand in the way of that progression. I would imagine, while we will look at things in the morning, that both Minding and Found will run in the Champion Stakes too."
Despite the soaring temperatures on Monday, conditions only dried marginally on the track. Chief executive Pat Keogh said: "This morning the Champions Stakes track is good to yielding, good in places. There is rain forecast for Thursday and Friday.
"We had 13,800 spectators last year and we are expecting a solid increase on that number."
The Curragh's card, on Sunday, looks the lesser of the Champions Weekend pair. Order Of St George heads the 13 horses remaining in the Palmerstown House Estate Irish St Leger, with stablemate Churchill likely to tackle the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes. The other Grade One, the Moyglare Stud Stakes, will be contested by Irish-trained runners exclusively.