Irish Champions Weekend is spectacularly opened at Leopardstown on Saturday September 14th, with the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes being the feature race on the card. This race is often ranked one of the best in the world, with previous winners including the Champion 3yo Filly in Europe Snow Fairy, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sea the Stars, Multiple Group 1 winner Golden Horn and French raider Almanzor. Christophe Soumillon when winning the 2016 renewal commented "Only champions can win a race like this."
Last year’s QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes saw Roaring Lion take on Saxon Warrior for what would be their final rematch. Saxon Warrior previously got the better of Roaring Lion in the 2000 Guineas however the John Gosden Colt was not to be denied the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes crown winning by a neck and partnered by Kerry native Oisin Murphy. The owners also happened to be the race sponsors and Sheikh Fahad commented on the success, “it’s very special to win our own race, and the race didn’t disappoint in terms of quality. They are two great three-year-olds who have been taking each other on since last year. Also featured on the card is the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes. This is a Group 1 for fillies 3yo + over a mile. This is a race where the best fillies take on each other and the previous two renewals have been ranked as the world best fillies and mares race.
Listen to what leading jockey Ryan Moore has to say about Longines Irish Champions Weekend here
Gates Open approx 11am | First Race approx 1.55pm | Last Race approx 6.00pm | Event Ends approx 8.30pm
Updated race timings for Saturday September 14th are as below;
1.55 The Ballylinch Stud EBF Ingabelle Stakes (Listed) 2.30 The Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Petingo' Handicap3.05 The KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes (Group 2)3.40 The Paddy Power Betting Shop Stakes (Group 3)4.15 The QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes (Group 1)4.50 The Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes (Group 2)5.25 The Coolmore ‘Fastnet Rock’ Matron Stakes (Group 1)6.00 The Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Sovereign Path' Handicap
September 14th 2019
The QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes is a restricted race for three year olds and upwards. It is run over 1 mile and 2 furlongs and is worth a staggering €1,250,000 – The most valuable race on the Irish Champions weekend card. Previous race winners include legends of the turf such as Sadler’s Wells, Daylami, Giant’s Causeway, Dylan Thomas who won it on two occasions and the brilliant Sea the Stars. Given the races outstanding record the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes has established itself as one of the top races in the world. In 2016 it was the joint highest rated turf race ran in the World. The QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes has become a very informative guide for the remaining major races in the Autumn schedule such as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Champion Stakes, and the Breeders Cup. Participants of the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes have gone on to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the same season on six occasions, the Champion Stakes on five occasions and also gone on to win several Breeders' Cup titles. The QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes became part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series in 2009. The winner now earns an automatic invitation to compete in the same year's Breeders' Cup Turf. Oisin Murphy 2018’s winner on Roaring Lion said after the race that “It means the world to me. It's one of my best days for sure and one I'll not forget it for a long time. It's surreal."
The Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes (Group 1) is run over 1 mile and is a restricted race for fillies and mares. It is worth €350,000 making it the second most valuable race on the card. In 2017 and 2018 the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes was rated the World’s Best fillies and mares race in the World by The European and World Thoroughbred Rankings – a tremendous accolade to receive. Previous winners of this outstanding race include multiple Group 1 winners Soviet Song and the incredibly tough Attraction. However, Alpha Centauri’s attempt at five Group One victories in a row came unstuck as the race favourite came up three quarters of a length short of Laurens in the Coolmore Matron Stakes in 2018. The sole English raider Laurens wound up justifying her supplementary entry into the race in style. Danny Tudhope took over from the injured PJ McDonald and made all the running on the Karl Burke-trained star, who was landing her fourth Group One. Afterwards, trainer Karl Burke described Laurens victory as the “highlight of his career” in an emotional interview.
September 14th 2018
The Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes (Group 2) is run over 1 mile for 3 year olds an upwards and is worth €200,000. Previous winners of the race include Irish 2000gns winner Awtaad, and the David O’Meara trained Custom Cut. In 2018 I Can Fly lived up to her name as she hit top gear in the final furlong to win the Group 2 Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown. Trainer Aidan O’Brien and Jockey Ryan Moore flew in by helicopter after winning the St. Leger at Doncaster with Kew Gradens, and they were rewarded in style as the daughter of Fastnet Rock returned to form after being beaten at Tipperary. I Can Fly produced a terrific turn of foot to storm past stable companion Kenya and cross the line one and three-quarter lengths to the good. Pinchek was a further two and half lengths away in third. “We thought the world of her in the spring. She just disappointed a few times and it took her a while to get it back together” said O’Brien.
The KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes – Group 2 is run over 1 mile, is a restricted race for two year olds and is worth €150,000. The KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes has been upgraded from 2017 to Group 2 status due to its excellent history of producing top class racehorses. Previous winners include Epsom and Irish Derby winner Australia, Criterium International winner Johannes Vermeer and although a runner up Free Eagle who went on to win The Prince of Wales’ Stakes at Royal Ascot . The winner of this Champion Juvenile is eligible for a place in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile races due to its “Win and you’re in” status. The beautifully bred Nelson who is by superstar Frankel out of the Irish Oaks winner Moonstone led home an Aidan O’Brien 1-2-3 in the race last year.
The Paddy Power betting shop stakes (Group 3) is run over 1 mile and 4 furlongs, is restricted for 3 year olds and upwards who have not won a Group 1 race and is worth €100,000. Since 2014 Dermot Weld and jockey Pat Smullen have dominated this race – the duo have claimed victory with Free Eagle (2014), Fascinating Rock (2015) Zhukova (2016) and Eziyra (2017). All of these horses have progressed to have illustrious careers; Free Eagle claimed Group 1 victory in the Prince of Wales’ Stakes at Royal Ascot and now stands at the Irish National Stud. Fascinating Rock went on to take the Champion Stakes and Tattersalls Gold Cup and now stands at Ballylinch Stud while Zhukova travelled to America wining the Man O’ War Stakes at Belmont Park. Rostropovich benefited from a drop in grade to renew winning ways in the Paddy's Rewards Club Stakes. The Aidan O'Brien-trained colt who was second in the Irish Derby two starts ago and had won the Listed Dee Stakes at Chester in May. Sent off the evens favourite, he had to dig deep to see off stablemate Giuseppe Garibaldi in this Group Three contest, in the hands of Donnacha O'Brien who said after the race "He stays well and handles that ground well. It's good to get a win into him"
The Ballylinch Stud Irish EBF Ingabelle Stakes (Listed) is run over 7 furlongs, is restricted to 2 year old fillies that have not won a Listed race and is worth €100,000. The Ballylinch Stud Irish EBF Ingabelle Stakes was upgraded to Listed status in 2017 and is the first race on the card of Irish Champions weekend. This race produces star fillies of the future and always attracts the leading yards in an attempt to win this prestigious race. Anamba owned by Godolphin won the race in 2015 and went on to win black type, Rain Goddess (2016) was placed at Group 1 level and won a Group 3, while Lightening Quick (2017) has won the Athasi Stakes Group 3. In 2018 Sparkle'n'joy put up a determined display to land the Listed honours in the Ballylinch Stud Irish EBF Ingabelle Stakes. The Jessica Harrington-trained filly would not give into the well-backed 5-2 favourite Foxtrot Liv, who put in a persistent challenge in the final furlong. There was little to choose between the pair at the line but Sparkle'n'joy prevailed by a head under a strong ride from Shane Foley. "That's brilliant and there is some noise in this place" said Jessica Harrington after the race.
The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Petingo Handicap is run over 1 mile 5 furlongs, is open to 3 year olds and upwards and is worth €150,000. In the 2018 renewal the classy hurdler Limini scooped a big prize on the Flat when finishing with a flourish to land the Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Petingo' Premier Handicap at Leopardstown. The Willie Mullins-trained mare was twice placed at the Galway Festival when sent off favourite and gained compensation with a battling performance to beat Law Girl, giving Mullins and owner Rich Ricci the first two home. The Mouse Doctor looked a threat to all, but Oisin Murphy produced Limini late in the day to grab victory by a head from Law Girl. Limini who is known for her exploits over hurdle’s including a win at the 2016 Cheltenham festival. Afterwards Mullins said: "Limini's nice filly and we thought we'd be back on the Flat with her last year, but we didn't get around to it, We had thought she could be a Melbourne Cup horse and she'd be getting up to that area now. The only thing is that the ratings for it are going so high. If she can run for a million or seven million, we'll give up the jumping for a while anyway!"
The EBF Sovereign Path Premier Handicap is run over 7 furlongs and is open to 3 year olds and upwards and is worth €150,000. The concluding race on the card always attracts a competitive field and is often won by a British based trainer. The Sovereign Path Premier Handicap was first run at Leopardstown in 2014 and has firmly established itself as one of the premier 7 furlong handicaps in Britain and Ireland. In the 2018 renewal Zap came out on top in a blanket finish. Richard Fahey's charge got up in the final strides to deny the 5-1 favourite Silverkode, who looked like he was going to justify strong support when he hit the front in the final furlong. However, he ended up being second best by a neck in frantic finale. Surrounding was a nose away third with Daniels flyer just a head back in fourth. Chris Hayes said afterwards "That was very straightforward. The owner filled me up with loads of confidence. I didn't speak to Richard, but he passed on the message through Mouse (O'Ryan) and I did what I was told and won so it was nice, It's great to get a winner for Richard."
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