Harzand Copyright A.J. Byles

Copyright A.J. Byles

Dual Derby winner Harzand and the six-time Group 1 winner Minding, head a field of 13 runners for the €1.25m QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes on the opening day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown on Saturday.

With Fascinating Rock set to miss out, Dermot Weld will be doubly represented as he bids to win the race for the first time. His star three-year-old Harzand, the mount of champion jockey Pat Smullen, will be joined by Ebediyin who also runs in the colours of HH The Aga Khan.  Aidan O’Brien has declared four horses, the fillies Minding and last year’s runner-up Found along with Highland Reel and Sir Isaac NewtonNew Bay and Almanzor, the last two French Derby winners, will represent Jean-Claude Rouget while Ken Condon will run Success Days. British trainers Kevin Ryan, Clive Cox and Charlie Appleby have declared The Grey Gatsby, winner of the race in 2014, My Dream Boat and Hawkbill respectively. Jim Bolger’s Moonlight Magic completes the line-up.

Eight horses have been declared for the Group 1 Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes. A strong overseas challenge is led by the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Qemah, John Gosden’s Persuasive and Hugo Palmer’s Hawksmoor while Alice Springs, trained by Aidan O’Brien and Adrian Keatley’s Jet Setting dominate the home defence. Andy Slattery has declared Creggs Pipes while Devonshire and Now Or Never will carry the hopes of Curragh trainers Willie McCreery and Michael O’Callaghan.

The Group 2 Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes has attracted a field of eight runners, headed by Awtaad and Hit It A Bomb while five will face the starter for the Group 3 KPMG Enterprise Stakes including US Army Ranger and Zhukova. Of the five runners in the Group 3 Willis Towers Watson Champions Juvenile Stakes, both Douglas Macarthur and Radio Silence certainly appear to have leading chances.

Longines Irish Champions Weekend opens with the Ballylinch Stud EFB Fillies Maiden for which 18 horses have been declared. The Irish Stallion Farms ‘Petingo’ Handicap will see a maximum field of 16 runners line up while the Irish Stallion Farms ‘Sovereign Path’ Handicap features 18 runners, headed by last year’s winner Kelinni.

Pat Keogh, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse, said, “We couldn’t be happier. The QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes is certainly one of the races of the year and the line-up is quite unbelievable. With Minding taking on the colts for the first time, including a dual Derby winner in Harzand and a French Derby winner in Almanzor, it is a dream come true to have them racing at Leopardstown. I’m delighted to see Qemah and Persuasive coming for the Group 1 Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes. Again that is a fascinating contest. We can’t wait for Saturday.”

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