Alamshar heads Champion field

A maximum field of nine runners, headed by Alamshar, will go to post in Saturday’s Ireland the Food Island Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

A maximum field of nine runners, headed by Alamshar, will go to post in Saturday’s Ireland the Food Island Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

The brilliant John Oxx-trained three-year-old, who has won the Budweiser Irish Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes this season, is likely to be a warm order for the mile and a quarter event.

His regular partner Johnny Murtagh could yet be back to partner him as he returns from a self-imposed break with two rides for Oxx at Limerick tomorrow.

“Alamshar worked this morning and is in good order,” Oxx said today. “Johnny rode him on the Peat gallop and we’re happy with him.

“As for the Champion Stakes and Johnny riding, we are still taking it one day at a time – we’ll see how he goes on at Limerick tomorrow.”

The opposition is led by Aidan O’Brien’s dual Derby winner High Chaparral, who made a successful return to action after injury with a smooth success over 10 furlongs at the Curragh last month.

The Ballydoyle handler has also left in the three-year-olds France and Statue Of Liberty.

Darley Irish Oaks winner Vintage Tipple has been left in by Paddy Mullins, while a surprise acceptor is Dermot Weld’s Sagitta 2000 Guineas hero Refuse To Bend.

The British contingent is led by Falbrav, who is reported to be in top form by trainer Luca Cumani.

The five-year-old has already won both the Coral Eclipse and Juddmonte International Stakes this season to make him the inaugural British Horseracing Board Middle Distance Champion.

“He’s in good form and we have one more piece of work to do with him before the weekend,” Cumani told attheraces.

“The weather forecast seems encouraging because there shouldn’t be any rain coming before Saturday.”

Cumani is looking forward to what could be a vintage renewal of the race but he knows his charge faces a tough task in Ireland.

“It’s going to be a very good race with Alamshar as the rightful favourite and the one we have to beat,” he added.

“He’s a King George and Derby winner and is the best three-year-old in Europe at the moment.

“Let’s not forget High Chaparral, but I think Alamshar is the one to beat.”

Godolphin have left in the Dubai World Cup winner Moon Ballad, and the field is completed by Sir Michael Stoute’s Islington, winner of the Aston Upthorpe Yorkshire Oaks last time.

Racecourse manager Tom Burke confirmed that there is little in the way of rain expected at the track this week.

“Our ground is good to firm at the moment and the forecast is for dry conditions today, tomorrow and Thursday,” he said.

“There is some rain getting into the west on Friday, but the present indications are that it may not even reach the east coast, but if it does it will produce very little in the way of rain.

“Saturday should be a mainly dry day with a risk of one of two light showers but that’s all really.

“We will review the situation tomorrow morning.

“If the forecast hasn’t changed very much from what it is at the moment we will probably put some water on tomorrow.

“It’s good to firm at the moment, but we reckon it would have gone firm by tomorrow morning.”

However, the absence of rain is not such good news for connections of Ikhtyar and Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager Angus Gold confirmed that their rising star would not be taking his chance.

The colt has not been seen on the racecourse since running away with the Gala Stakes over a mile and-a-quarter at Sandown, following a second to the Aga Khan’s Kalaman at Kempton in May.

Connections have been searching for soft ground for the three-year-old and have decided not to risk the John Gosden-trained colt.

“Ikhtyar does not run on Saturday,” Gold explained.

“He hasn’t had as much work as we would have liked, but really it’s with the on-going fast ground – he wouldn’t be ready for a major championship race like that.

“We have had to run him on faster ground as that was pretty much all there has been so far this year but, after Kempton, we learnt that he doesn’t want fast ground.”

A lucrative autumn campaign could be on the cards though, with the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes at Newmarket on the agenda as long as the ground has some cut in it.

“Obviously we hope we get some easier ground at some stage and then we’d hope to get him back out on the track,” added Gold.

Brian Meehan’s Kaieteur was also among the withdrawals.

The four-year-old was a staying-on third to Falbrav in the Coral Eclipse and on his last start he was second to Sulamani in the Arlington Million in America.

Kaieteur was rated as a 10-1 chance with Cashmans for Saturday’s mile and a quarter event but Meehan has opted not to run.

He said: “It’s a little bit soon after Arlington and he’s picked up a slight throat and chest infection.

“It’s very marginal, nothing really, but it’s not the ideal preparation for a horse of his calibre in a race of that calibre.”

Future engagements for the horse are still being considered, with Meehan adding: “Plans are still open for his next race, but he’ll possibly go for the English Champion Stakes – we’ll wait and see.”

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