The result of the St Leger at Doncaster will have implications for the Irish Champion Stakes due to form from the English Derby. Harzand won that race at Epsom beating Idaho by two-and- three-quarter lengths into third place and that horse is the odds-on favourite to win the final British Classic of the season. Minding is the favourite to win one of the biggest Flat races of the season in Ireland.
Aidan O’Brien will have his say in the UK and Ireland on Saturday because he trains Idaho and Minding. His main jockey is Ryan Moore, seen by some as the best in the world. His services will be used at Leopardstown which means Seamie Hefferman rides Idaho in the St Leger. O’Brien is one of the few trainers to have won British Classics and a championship race at the Cheltenham Festival.
O’Brien has trained some of the best thoroughbreds in the history of the sport and has broken many records for Classic and Group 1 wins with the Flat horses he trains. This may be a racing myth but apparently when he is asked what is the best horse he has trained the answer is Istabraq who won three Champion Hurdles and was the favourite for a fourth which did not take place due to the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. The horse was pulled up in the race the following year when past his best.
The Irish Champion Stakes brings together the winners of the Derby and Oaks in Harzand and Minding. The latter gets a fillies’ allowance of three pounds which could be crucial as there is only one pound between the horses on Racing Post ratings. Older horses are eligible for the race but must carry seven pounds more than horses from the Classic generation. Minding gets both allowances so will be carrying ten pounds less than the older male horses, including Highland Reel who win the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July. .
The race in Ireland is run over the intermediary distance of one mile two furlongs which should suit Minding as the horse won the 1,000 Guineas over one mile and the Oaks over four furlongs further. All the race records are dominated by O’Brien and Coolmore as their winners include Dylan Thomas, the only two times champion. They also hold the records for leading jockey, trainer and owners. Minding would be the eighth winner of the race for the O’Brien and Irish syndicate. The Irish Champion Stakes was first run in 1976 and every winner has been aged three, four or five.
The ground has come right for Harzand and a run at Leopardstown looks on the cards. The horse is trained by Dermot Weld who said in the Racing Post this week: “The going and the weather forecast suggest the ground will be safe and the plan is for Harzand to run in the Irish Champion” The clerk of the course anticipates the track to ride on the easy side of good which will suit Harzand but won’t inconvenience Minding so this will be a true championship race run on decent ground.
Harzand is the marginal choice to win the Irish Champion Stakes and his jockey, Pat Smullen, is confident the horse can beat all-comers including Minding. If Idaho wins the St Leger earlier in the afternoon going away there will be a big betting move on Harzand. The horse has improved throughout the season and Smullen believes he’s the best middle-distance colt around but Minding is a female and carries three pounds less on Saturday. The winning margin either way on ratings could be a length or less.
Minding is clearly the best three-year-old filly in Britain and Ireland and that weight allowance will come in very handy. It is not a two-horse race but the two market leaders have something in hand on ratings over the other runners. It will take a good horse to beat Minding carrying that extra bit of weight but Harzand won the Derby so in theory is the champion male three-year-old of the season. The horse can confirm that status by beating Minding and the rest of the field in the Irish Champion Stakes.
Have a fantastic weekend!