Six big winners from the Longines Irish Champions Weekend
What a weekend of racing.
Whether you are a casual fan, just there for a bit of craic, or a racing aficionado if you were one of the 25,000 people who descended on Leopardstown or The Curragh last weekend for the Longines Irish Champions Weekend you won't have come away disappointed.
There were losers and disappointment, of course, but we would rather focus on the six winners from the weekend.
It was some week for the son of Aidan O'Brien. He came out of retirement last week to get back in the saddle and win the Leger Legends race at Doncaster on 7-1 shot Phosphorescence.
'Legend' is clearly a term that should be used loosely when discussing any 23-year-old, but if Joseph is to one day join his father on a list of legendary trainers then he will remember last Sunday at the Curragh with special affection. Joseph recorded his first Group 1 winner as a trainer as 25/1 shot Intricately, ridden by his brother Donnacha, held off Hydrangea and Rhododendron, two horses trained by his father, to win the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
"This means the world to me," Joseph said moments after some great scenes of O'Brien family celebration in the parade ring. "It's Donnacha's first Group One and my mum bred her. She's very tough and Donnacha was very strong on her."
Intricately is earmarked for the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket next month but O'Brien admitted that he will wait and see before deciding is she will run again this season.
Anyone lucky enough to be standing near the parade ring moments after Frankie Dettori stunned The Curragh by winning The Palmerstown House Estate Irish St Leger couldn't help but be bowled over by the sheer enthusiasm and joy on the Italian's face as he leapt from Wicklow Brave after a most unlikely win. It was a truly special moment to witness.
Willie Mullins' Wicklow Brave went off an 11/1 shot in a four-horse race with the Order of St George a 1/7 favourite but stunned punters and bookies alike as Dettori guided the seven-year-old home. Wicklow Brave was immediately installed as favourite for the Melbourne Cup.
The Aidan O'Brien trained three-year-old was a clear and comfortable winner of the Group 1 Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday. It was a real change of fortunes from her previous run when she came home a hugely disappointing eighth at the Prix Rothschild in July. The Breeders' Cup Mile may well be a target for Alice Springs in the autumn.
There are still sceptics out there but the Aidan O'Brien trained Churchill's first Group One success in the National Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday has set the two-year-old up for a tilt at the 2,000 Guineas. Bookmakers have this son of Galileo in as a 4/1 shot for Newmarket next May after he beat Richard Hannon's Mehmas over seven furlongs in Kildare.
"He's a very exciting horse," O'Brien said afterwards. "He settled and he quickened and I thought that he went like a real miler, but Ryan [Moore] was adamant that a mile and a quarter would be no problem to him next year either."
The pre-race talk was all focussed on Harzand and Minding but it was French raider Almanzor who took the showpiece race of the day at Leopardstown last Saturday, the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes. In a star-studded race featuring eight individual Group 1 winners, the French Derby winner, who went off a 7-1 shot, saw off the challenge from Frankie Dettori's Found to take the €1.25m prize.
"It was a great feeling," said winning jockey Christophe Soumillon. "It was a very high-rated race with a lot of champions. We know how good he is but you never know when you go overseas for the first time."
Trainer Jean Claude-Rouget was unsure if Almanzor would head for Ascot or the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly. Dermot Weld's Harzand will head for the Arc despite this defeat.
The good news for Irish racing fans is that the Longines Irish Champions Weekend is here to stay. It will continue in its present format next year. The attendance last Saturday at Leopardstown was the biggest in this event's history