G1 Irish Champion Stakes is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf
The 2021 Irish Champion Stakes will run with just four runners - the smallest field the race has ever seen in its current format.
Big guns St Mark's Basilica, Tarnawa and Poetic Flare remain on target to clash in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday. The Irish Champion Stakes is a "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Turf to be held in early November at Del Mar.
The trio comprise 3/4 of the entries for the event with the fourth runner Patrick Sarsfield. The race will highlight the opening day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend which, for the first time, will be a World Pool event for all eight races.
||PATRICK SARSFIELD [FR]
|Joseph Patrick O`Brien
||C T Keane
||K J Manning
||ST MARK`S BASILICA [FR]
||R L Moore
The big three have all stood their ground as a field of four runners have been declared for the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained St Mark's Basilica, already the winner of the French 2,000 Guineas, the French Derby and the Coral-Eclipse Stakes this season and the joint top-rated horse in the world with Palace Pier, takes on Dermot Weld's star performer Tarnawa, the world's leading mare.
The pair will clash with Jim Bolger's Poetic Flare, rated the top-miler after his success in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James´s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. The Joseph O'Brien-trained Patrick Sarsfield makes up the field.
Mark Bird, IHRB Flat Handicapper, said: "The Irish Champion Stakes is once again set to be the jewel in the crown of what promises to be a mouth-watering festival of world class Flat racing in Ireland this weekend. It is a true heavyweight contest with the world's top-rated horse and four-time Group 1 winner St Mark's Basilica going up against the world's highest-rated distaffer and Breeders' Cup winner Tarnawa as well the world's leading three-year-old miler and dual Group 1 winner Poetic Flare.
"Seeing these Group 1 winners over eight furlongs, ten furlongs and 12 furlongs clashing on home soil over the Intermediate distance provides a veritable clash of the divisions, sexes and generations and is a race for the ages on our doorstep."
Tim Husbands, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse, said: "After so long away we are thrilled to be welcoming back racegoers to Leopardstown and for the return to racing to be part of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend makes it a very special occasion."
"The highlight of the fixture is undoubtedly the Irish Champion Stakes which has the potential to be a thrilling renewal with our highest-rated horses competing strongly for the crown. The day will be watched on by the 4,000 attending and watching in from across the world. This race and the meeting in general will be a fantastic showcase for all that's good in Irish Flat racing.''
The first of the weekend's Group 1 races is the Coolmore America 'Justify' Matron Stakes, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Johnny Murtagh has left in both last year's winner Champers Elysees and the ever-improving Create Belief, while Aidan O'Brien can choose from Mother Earth, Empress Josephine, Joan Of Arc and Friendly. Joseph O'Brien is also strongly represented with Thundering Nights, Pretty Gorgeous and Lovely Esteem while the Willie McCreery-trained Epona Plays would not be without her chance. The Pascal Bary-trained Thalie stays in as do the Ed Walker-trained Dreamloper and Richard Fahey's Fev Rover.
There are four Group 1 races at the Curragh on Sunday and the second day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend is highlighted by the Comer Group International Irish St Leger for which there are 22 horses remaining. Leading the way is Dermot Weld's Search For A Song, bidding for her third successive win in the race with opposition set to include Johnny Murtagh's Ebor winner Sonnyboyliston.
A strong team from the Joseph O'Brien stable is comprised of Twilight Payment, Master Of Reality and Baron Samedi while Aidan O'Brien has five possibles, including 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner Santiago and Sir Lucan. Aircraft Carrier and Seattle Creek are set to represent the sponsor, Luke Comer.
From France and Germany, Yann Barberot's Brokeback Mountain and the Andreas Suborics-trained Rip Van Lips, winner of the Group 2 Comer Group International 50th Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten in May, could yet take their chance along with the remaining British challenger, David O'Meara's Eagles By Day.
Sixteen horses remain in the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes, headed by last year's winner of the race, the Kevin Ryan-trained Glass Slippers and Tim Easterby's Winter Power, successful in the Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes at York. Archie Watson's Dragon Symbol is another leading contender standing his ground along with top home contenders Mooneista, Gustavus Weston and Measure Of Magic, trained by Jack Davison, Joe Murphy and Johnny Murtagh respectively.
The first of the weekend's Group 1 races for 2-year-olds is the Moyglare Stud Stakes and topping the 14 remaining entries are Ger Lyons's supplementary entry Cairde Go Deo and the Dermot Weld-trained Homeless Songs which is bidding to give the sponsors their first win in the race.
Unbeaten colts Point Lonsdale, trained by Aidan O'Brien, and the Charlie Appleby-trained Native Trail lead the way in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes for which ten horses stand their ground. Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes winner Ebro River is there for Hugo Palmer while Michael Bell's Great Max could be another raider from across the Irish Sea.
Tim Husbands, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse, said: "We are delighted to see such a top-class field at this stage announced for the Irish Champion Stakes. It will be a highly competitive race, truly reflective of the depth of quality of Irish racing currently. We are looking forward to a great day's racing and to have racegoers returning in greater numbers will make for an extra special occasion."
Evan Arkwright, Chief Executive (interim) of the Curragh Racecourse, said: "The entries on Sunday certainly confirms the champion status of the day with high quality runners from start to finish on a superb programme which features four Group 1 races. I would like to acknowledge the fantastic support of owners, trainers and of course our very loyal sponsors. We are really looking forward to welcoming racegoers back to the Curragh for one of the major highlights in the international calendar."
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