New Bay is on course to take on the best of this year’s Classic generation in what promises to be a fascinating renewal of the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.
Last year’s French Derby winner is one of 17 names left in the mile-and-a-quarter Group One contest alongside dual Derby winner Harzand and English 1000 Guineas and Oaks heroine Minding at the latest confirmation stage.
Having failed to feature in the Prix d’Ispahan on his seasonal reappearance at Chantilly in May, the Andre Fabre-trained four year old returned from a short break with victory in a Group Three contest at Deauville last month.
“New Bay is running in Ireland,” said Fabre.
“I think it is a nice race to try and win. The distance should suit him and we want to try and win another big race with him.
“He won a Group Three in Deauville in good style last time out and since then he has done really well.
“He had a problem with his foot, then the ground was bottomless on his first start. It will be interesting taking on the three-year-olds.
“The Arc or the Champion Stakes are his options after this race.”
While Pat Smullen is yet to officially confirm if he will ride Harzand or his stablemate Fascinating Rock - two of four potential runners in the race for trainer Dermot Weld alongside The Steward and Ebediyin - he hopes that plenty of rain falls at the track to help enhance the chances of both horses.
Smullen said: “The more rain that comes the better for Harzand. I was glad we got all the rain we got - Leopardstown is a very good draining track so we need to keep getting those showers.
“If the rain keeps coming it’s ideal conditions for both horses, we’re very fortunate that we’ve two good horses in the stable and this race suits them very well.”
In addition to Minding, trainer Aidan O’Brien can also call on King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Highland Reel and Breeders’ Cup Turf victor Found, together with US Army Ranger, Sir Isaac Newton and Long Island Sound.
Three British possibles are headed by Eclipse winner Hawkbill from the yard of Charlie Appleby.
The Kevin Ryan-trained The Grey Gatsby, winner of the race in 2014, and My Dream Boat, from the yard of Clive Cox are the other potential British challengers.
There is further potential French interest with Jean-Claude Rouget leaving in this year’s French Derby winner Almanzor.
The list is completed by the Jim Bolger-trained Moonlight Magic and Success Days, who is the representative of Ken Condon.
Minding meanwhile still has two options at Leopardstown on Saturday after being left in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes. The six-times Group One winner, trained by Aidan O’Brien, has also stood her ground in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes on the same card.
Connections are leaning towards taking on the colts in the mile-and-a quarter showpiece, but are keeping their options open.
O’Brien has two other possibles for the Matron in Alice Springs and Somehow after 12 remained in the mile contest for fillies and mares.
Jet Setting, who defeated Minding in the Irish 1000 Guineas, could bid for more Group One success while the French are well represented with Jean-Claude Rouget’s Coronation Stakes winner Qemah and Francis Graffard’s Volta.
The extremely progressive Persuasive, trained by John Gosden, could get her chance at the top level after going through the ranks in style with a perfect record of five out of five.
QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes
7-4 Minding, 11-4 Harzand, 6 Almanzor, 7 Fascinating Rock, 8 Found, Highland Reel, 12 New Bay, 14 US Army Ranger, Hawkbill, 20 Success Days, Moonlight Magic, 25 Sir Isaac Newton, The Grey Gatsby, 33 My Dream Boat, 50 Long Island Sound, 100 Ebidyin, 200 The Steward
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