Ghaiyyath, the highest-rated horse on the planet will be the headline act on day one of Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown on Saturday.
The Champion Stakes goes to post at 4.10 on Saturday and Ghaiyyath is deservedly odds-on. The Aidan O'Brien stablemates Magical and Japan are next in the market ahead of Sottsass. This looks like a rare piece of generosity from bookmakers.
The last time Magical, Japan and Sottsass met was in the 2019 Arc and the French horse finished in front of the Ballydoyle pair. There is little evidence to suggest the same will not happen on Saturday.
Enable second on seasonal reappearance. Well done Ghaiyyath pic.twitter.com/oZvdXnegPf
— Fergal O’Brien Racing (@FOBRacing) July 5, 2020
Ghaiyyath is by far the most likely winner but it would be no surprise if Sottsass gave him the most to think about on that form line through Enable and was closest if not quite in front at the line.
The supporting card on Saturday is packed with quality and some attractive betting opportunities.
Aidan O'Brien isn't renowned for utilising handicaps on big weekends for his horses, generally preferring to focus on the pattern contests, although he won this race in 2012. This weekend is no ordinary weekend in a condensed season and Persia is returning from an injury at the end of last season. He is bred to win a Derby but has missed most of the season. Off a mark of 100 with his age allowance, he could have a fair bit in hand if he's fit enough.
The first Group One of the weekend is the Matron Stakes, with Aidan and Donnacha O'Brien dominating the top of the market. Fancy Blue has done little wrong this season but the trip may be on the sharp side for her. Albigna hasn't won since Arc day in Paris last year and has been frustrating to follow this term. A win for Albigna would help right a wrong in the race two years ago when Alpha Centauri picked up an injury here for trainer Jessica Harrington.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) October 6, 2019
Joseph O'Brien won this race five times in a row as a jockey and looks to have a prime opportunity to win for the first time as a trainer this weekend with River Liffey. The horse is a full brother to Lope Y Fernandez and broke his duck at Punchestown just nine days ago. That could be a blessing in disguise as he was only touched off on debut thus giving him more valuable racecourse experience against lesser opposition when winning at Punchestown.
The closing handicap on Saturday is incredibly competitive with a strong English-trained challenge. However, the last two runnings have been won by three-year-olds and Music To My Ears could continue that trend. Joseph O'Brien's runner was just touched off when last seen at the Curragh by a horse who was subsequently placed in a Group Three. Near the foot of the weights due to her age allowance, Music TO My Ears can finish strongly with that featherweight to give owner JP McManus a Champions Weekend winner.