The Fugue set to stake claim for big Irish prize
Ground conditions at Leopardstown could lead to Yorkshire Oaks heroine The Fugue taking her chance in the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday.
John Gosden's filly clinched her second Group One prize with a mesmerising display on the Knavesmire last month, after which the Clarehaven handler mentioned the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a return trip to the Breeders' Cup as possible options.
At that stage, a trip to Ireland was not discussed, but with the prospect of her favoured fast ground looking likely she has been confirmed for what would be a fascinating clash with the colts.
Simon Marsh, racing and bloodstock manager for The Fugue's owner Andrew Lloyd Webber, said: "John (Gosden) is not here at the moment, but we will talk about things in the next couple of days.
"Looking at the weather forecast there is not a lot of rain around at the moment and she has got her preferred ground, so we might let her take her chance."
While the drying weather could persuade connections of The Fugue to give an Irish mission the green light, it looks likely to scupper the participation of both Al Kazeem and Cirrus Des Aigles.
The Roger Charlton-trained Al Kazeem has already enjoyed a stunning campaign, claiming a Group One hat-trick in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, the Prince of Wales's Stakes and the Coral-Eclipse. However, he was beaten into third in a fast-ground Juddmonte International at York last month and ease underfoot is essential for his next assignment.
Charlton told his website: "James Doyle walked the course (on Sunday) before his second Group One winner at the Curragh and described the ground as being very quick. Unless there is a change in the weather before the weekend Al Kazeem is looking a doubtful starter."
Al Kazeem is likely to have one more run before a tilt at either the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on October 6 or the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot 13 days later, according to his owner John Deer.
"I would think he'll have two more runs," Deer said. "He's entered in the Prix Foy at Longchamp (September 15) and then after that it's the Arc or the Champion Stakes. I never thought I'd be talking about one of my horses running in races like this, it's unbelievable. He's had a great year and he's just a fantastic horse."
French star Cirrus Des Aigles also features among 13 Irish Champion Stakes confirmations, but connections are similarly hoping for a change in conditions.
Trainer Corine Barande-Barbe said: "If he does not run on Saturday, he will run in the Prix Dollar at Longchamp (October 5) and then the Champion Stakes at Ascot (October 19)."
Aidan O'Brien, who has saddled a record seven previous Irish Champion Stakes winners, has Camelot, Declaration Of War, Triumphant, Kingsbarns, Magician and Ruler Of The World still in the mix.
Jim Bolger has confirmed Parish Hall and King George and Juddmonte International runner-up Trading Leather.
"The plan is to run Trading Leather in the Irish Champion Stakes," Bolger said. "He arrived home from York in good shape and he has been fresh and well since."
Dermot Weld will delay a decision about the participation of his filly Princess Highway until later this week.
"She is a very talented filly and I don't think that we've seen the best of her so far this season," Weld said. "She has been left in the Champion Stakes and we will give it full thought, but she is a very possible runner."
The field is completed by John Murphy's outsider Euphrasia.