International runners have dominated the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes since 2012 and a strong overseas entry, headed by Masar and Phoenix Of Spain, is sure to test the home brigade once again this year.
Aidan O'Brien’s So You think was the last Irish-trained winner in 2011 and the race is the feature on the opening day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown on Saturday, September 14.
Masar, last year’s Epsom Derby hero, has been entered by trainer Charlie Appleby and heads the 24 British-trained entries that also includes last weekend’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas first and second, Phoenix Of Spain and Too Darn Hot, trained by Charlie Hills and John Gosden respectively. The William Haggas-trained Sea Of Class, successful on Irish soil in the Oaks at the Curragh last season adds to the cross-channel entry as does Telecaster, the Hughie Morrison-trained winner of this year’s Dante Stakes at York and the leading English fancy for Saturday’s Epsom Derby.
Deirdre, trained in Japan by Mitsuru Hashida, is a Group 1 winner in her native land and was successful in the Group 2 Ireland Trophy in Tokyo last October. She has clocked up plenty of air miles and her best overseas run came when she finished runner-up in the Longines Hong Kong Cup in December.
The French entry is made up of four horses and includes the recent French 2,000 Guineas winner Persian King, trained by Andre Fabre who has also put Waldgeist, the recent Prix Ganay winner, in the race. Jean-Claude Rouget, winner of the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes with Almanzor in 2016, has entered Sottsass while Intellogent could run for trainer Fabrice Chappet.
Dual Guineas winner Hermosa is among an entry of 17 for Aidan O'Brien, the last Irish trainer to win the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes. A typically strong Ballydoyle team also features another top filly in Magical, the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia and leading Epsom Derby hopes Sir Dragonet, Broome and Anthony Van Dyck. The Kevin Prendergast-trained Madhmoon is another notable home-trained contender.
The Comer Group International Irish St Leger is one of four Group 1 races and tops the card at the Curragh on Sunday, September 15 and its initial entry numbers 75, an increase of 20 on last year. Stradivarius, the outstanding stayer of the day, heads the 29 British-trained possibles for trainer John Gosden. The first three home in last year’s Melbourne Cup, Cross Counter, Marmelo and Prince Of Arran are also in the race as is last season’s Epsom Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee, already a winner on two occasions this season.
No one has landed the Comer Group International Irish St Leger more than Dermot Weld and the seven-time winner has Rakan and Tankerville among his seven entries. The 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner Latrobe is on Joseph O'Brien’s team of three while True Self is among a Willie Mullins-trained entry of four.
Aidan O'Brien is a five-time winner of the race and he has made 19 entries, including last year’s all-the-way hero Flag Of Honour, Capri, Sir Dragonet and Broome. Race sponsor Luke Comer has entered his recent Group 2 Comer Group International 48th Oleander-Rennen winner Raa Atoll. Moonshiner and Adler, third and fourth in that race have been entered by trainers Jean-Pierre Carvalho and Markus Klug respectively.
Pat Keogh, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse, said: “The QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes is always one of the top races each year and judging by entries, this year will be another cracker. The 2019 entries look incredibly strong with the current Irish, English and French 2,000 Guineas winners entered and it is great to see the continued international dimension to the race, with horses from Ireland, England, France and Japan included.”
Evan Arkwright, Racing Manager of the Curragh Racecourse commented: “The quality of entries for the Comer Group International Irish St Leger will help further develop the overall ambition of the weekend to be associated with the very best horses in Europe. The enhancement to our race programme for stayers’ through the generous sponsorship of Comer Group International has ensured we are now in a very strong position to attract the very best stayers to the Curragh.”