Post-Galway, yesterday’s launch of the fourth annual Longines Irish Champions Weekend, at the Merrion Hotel, served as a timely reminder that, as well as doing extended, multifaceted festivals particularly well, Irish racing can also serve up the very best of what the sport can offer in two special late-season afternoons.
This year’s renewal takes place on September 9 and 10, with Leopardstown opening the show, and The Curragh taking over with a Sunday serving at the Kildare venue, which remains under construction and will have a restricted capacity, as was the case for the Derby and Oaks.
Much has been made of the use of the course during the building process, but the truth is that neither day of Champions Weekend is likely ever to attract a crowd comparable to those which thronged Galway from Monday to Friday. And that is a shame, as this is the easiest sell of all time: some of the most regally bred and brilliant thoroughbreds on the planet converging on this island to provide a show to match the
What better sell of this year’s ICW than last year’s meeting, during which Almanzor turned his French supremacy into international superstardom. In the featured QIPCO Champion Stakes, Jean Claude Rouget’s Gallic great arrived late on the scene under Christophe Soumillon to deny subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Found, with multiple Group 1 winner Minding a well-beaten third.
Subsequent Grade 1 Man O War stakes winner Zhukova won the Group 3 KPMG Enterprise Stakes at last year’s meeting, while Irish and English 2000 Guineas winner won the Group 1 Vincent O’Brien National Stakes.
And, who can forget Frankie Dettori’s enterprising ride aboard Wicklow Brave in the Palmerstown House Estate Irish St Leger, in which he stole a march on and then fended off the late effort of 1-7 favourite Order Of St George, who went on to play a significant part in Aidan O’Brien’s one-two-three in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe?
With 16 races, ten of which are Group level, five of the very top grade, and a total prize pool of €4.63 million, the quality of this year’s meeting will be at least as good as in 2016. And it’s less than a month away. What’s better way to banish the post-summer blues?
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