Big names eye up Leopardstown and the Curragh for Irish Champions Festival in September

Thursday, May 25, 2023

A trio of horses trained in Japan and many of the biggest names in Irish, British and French racing feature among the entries for the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes on the opening day of Irish Champions Festival at Leopardstown on Saturday, September 9. 

By virtue of his success in the Saudi Cup earlier this year on top of Group 1 wins at home and in the Dubai Turf, Panthalassa is one of the highest earners in the history of the sport and he heads the 58 early entries for the race. Trained by Yoshito Yahagi, who has also tasted major success in the Japan Cup, the Breeders’ Cup in the USA and in Hong Kong, his earnings stand at over €13 million.

The versatile three-year-old Dura Erede is a Group 1 winning juvenile on turf in Japan and he took second place in the UAE Derby on dirt at Meydan in March for trainer Manabu Ikezoe. The five-year-old mare Through Seven Seas, a Group 3 winner for trainer Tomohito Ozeki on her most recent start in March, completes the Japanese entries. 

Four entries from France include the Fabrice Chappet-trained Onesto and Jean-Claude Rouget’s Vadeni which finished second and third to Aidan O'Brien’s Luxembourg in the race last year. The latter went on to take the runner-up spot in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He returns to Irish shores for the Tattersalls Irish Gold Cup at the Curragh on Sunday and his trainer Rouget has also entered the Group 2 winner Erevann and recent Listed winner Ace Impact in the Leopardstown race. 

A strong British entry of 20 horses is headed by this year’s Newmarket 2,000 Guineas winner Chaldean, trained by Andrew Balding who has also included last week’s Dante winner The Foxes. Three horses trained by Sir Michael Stoute, last year’s Epsom Derby winner Desert Crown and British Champion Stakes hero Bay Bridge and next weekend’s Epsom Derby hope Passenger are most notable entries along with the 2021 Epsom Derby victor Adayar, trained by Charlie Appleby, and John & Thady Gosden’s dual Group 1 winner Nashwa. Dubai Honour is a two-time Group 1 winner in Australia for trainer William Haggas and he also been given an early spot in the race while the Saratoga Grade 1 winner Nations Pride is another early entry for Charlie Appleby. 

Luxembourg, the joint top-rated 10 furlong three-year-old in the world last year after his success in the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes, leads Aidan O'Brien’s entry of 18 horses with his Breeders’ cup winner Meditate, Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas hope Paddington, Auguste Rodin, Point Lonsdale, Victoria Road and Broome among those bidding to give him his 12th success in the race. 

Among a Joseph O'Brien quintet is last season’s Goffs Vincent O´Brien National Stakes winner Al Riffa, while the progressive Sprewell is there for Jessica Harrington with Dante runner-up White Birch a big hope for trainer John Murphy. 

Topping the bill on a stellar racecard that boasts four Group 1 races at the Curragh on Sunday, September 10 is the €600,000 Comer Group International Irish St Leger and chief among the 73 entries are the Andrew Balding-trained Ascot Gold Cup favourite Coltrane, Aidan O'Brien’s star stayer and last year’s winner Kyprios, and the first two horses home in last week’s Yorkshire Cup, the Marco Botti-trained Giavellotto and Roger Varian’s Eldar Eldarov. 

The last two winners of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, the Charlie Appleby-trained Hurricane Lane and Ralph Beckett’s Westover are also among a particularly strong British entry which also features Appleby’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winners Yibir and Rebel’s Romance, the William Haggas-trained Hamish, runner-up to Kyprios in the race last year, and Haskoy, another trained by Ralph Beckett, which was second past the post behind Eldar Eldarov in last season’s St Leger at Doncaster. The Owen Burrows-trained Hukum, last seen winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom a year ago, is another intriguing inclusion. 

Along with Kyprios, the improving Bertinelli, Changingoftheguard, Emily Dickinson, Point Lonsdale and 22-length Cheshire Oaks winner Savethelastdance feature among Aidan O'Brien’s entry of 21 horses. Jessica Harrington’s Yashin pipped the Joseph O'Brien-trained Point King to win the Saval Beg Levmoss Stakes at Leopardstown recently and both horses have been given entries while the likes of Willie Mullins’ Echoes In Rain, the Paddy Twomey-trained French Claim and Rossacarbery, and the Andy Slattery-trained Sunchart bolster the home challenge.  

The first four horses home in the Group 2 Comer Group International 52nd Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten earlier this month, Aff Un Zo, trained by Marcus Klug, the Peter Schiergen-trained Nachtrose, Anna Schleusner-Fruhriep’s Nastaria and the Luke Comer-trained Bradesco, have also been entered for the final classic of the Irish season. The latter is one of three entries made by the big-race sponsor.