Leopardstown host the first day of Irish Champions Weekend. The Irish Champion Stakes at 4.10pm is the standout race of the day.

2.00pm – Ballylinch Stud Irish EBF Ingabelle Stakes (Listed Race) (7f)

It’s fair to say that More Beautiful has been a bit disappointing since her sparkling debut performance. I don’t think the ground has been to her liking since, as her action suggests the quicker the surface the better. There could be some rain around and it’s enough for me to be wary. No Speak Alexander brings some solid form to the table when a close fourth in Group 2 company last time, but is priced accordingly.

I was really impressed with Earth Strike’s debut win. Having travelled well, she picked up smartly to win going away. 7f is probably the minimum she’ll want to go, but she coped well enough with it last time. The ground she made up on the eventual second was pretty striking. Only a decent filly could have a change of gear like that, hopefully she can do the same again.

Bet
Earth Strike – 1pt Win (7/2)

2.35pm – Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Petingo’ Handicap (Premier Handicap) (1m5f)

A wide open heat where I’ve found it relatively easy to pick holes in those near the head of the market. Therefore, I’m taking a chance on one at a big price. His form figures may not be particularly inspiring, but Kasperenko has dropped to a very winnable mark.

A Listed winner when trained in the UK and also a handicap winner off 92, his current mark of 88 is an attractive one. He hasn’t even run badly since switching to Ken Condon’s yard either. Not beaten at all far at the Curragh in June, back into handicap company again last time, he didn’t have enough speed for the 1m2f. Back up in trip, on a good mark, from a good draw in stall 1 (so long as he isn’t slowly away), he looks a worthy bet.

Bet
Kasperenko – 0.5pts Each Way (33/1 – 1/4 odds 4 places)

3.10pm – Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes (Group 1) (1m)

The first Group 1 of the weekend and it’s a cracker. Fancy Blue and Peaceful renew their rivalry for a third time. It’s currently 1-1 between them and I’m backing the latter to add to her tally. I know she was better positioned when winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas, but in the Prix de Diane when Fancy Blue just came out on top, Peaceful was so keen and it was testament to her talent that she finished as close as she did. The return to a mile will help Peaceful more so than her owner-mate. Being drawn in stall 11, I think that’ll make Seamie Heffernan’s mind up for him and he’ll go to the lead.

Know It All would be one to keep an eye on at an each way price. Winning her first start at a mile and a close third in Group 1 company last time, she could have more to offer.

Bet
Peaceful – 2pts Win (5/2)

3.40pm – KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes (Group 2) (1m)

You won’t see many maiden winners more impressive than Cadillac. A nine length romp put on him on the radar as a serious, big race prospect. He could only manage second though when odds on in the Futurity Stakes on terrible ground, but he didn’t look hugely inconvenienced by the surface.

Van Gogh was behind Cadillac that day, but I think he can reverse the form. He got caught a bit wide and never had any cover. He is better judged on his second in the Tyros Stakes the start before, when staying on strongly from midfield and not quite getting to his front-running stablemate. Aidan O’Brien has won six of the last eight renewals, and it looks significant that Van Gogh is his only representative this time around.

Bet
Van Gogh – 1pt Win (5/1)

4.10pm – Irish Champion Stakes (Group 1) (1m2f)

This race probably revolves around whether anything will challenge Ghaiyyath for the lead. I still feel he’s vulnerable if something pesters him early. Armory could well be in the field to do just that. On the off chance that he is, I’m taking Ghaiyyath on again at a short price.

Ryan Moore has always had a soft spot for Japan, but I just haven’t seen a spark from him this season. Because of that, I can’t have him as second favourite. There isn’t much between him and Sottsass on their Arc running, but there is quite a big price differential. The 2019 Prix du Jockey Club winner has won at the top level again this season and couldn’t quite concede 6lbs to a mud lark in desperate ground last time. Jean-Claude Rouget sent over Almanzor to win this race in 2016, so it’s noteworthy he’s going over again with Sottsass.

As good as she is, the majority of Magical’s Group 1 wins have come against inferior rivals. She’ll run well, but I think she again will find at least one too good in this hot race.

Bet
Sottsass – 0.5pts Win (8/1) & 1pt Win (without the favourite – 11/4)

4.45pm – Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile (Group 2) (1m)

This is a very competitive race, with some rock solid older horses taking on the three year olds. Century Dream looked really good when winning at Goodwood, but he did have his ideal conditions that day, as did Safe Voyage when winning at York. The slight worry I have is that Ancient Spirit, Sinawann, Lancaster House, Safe Voyage and Century Dream all like to get on with things. There could be a frenetic pace set, which would set it up for a closer.

Three year olds have won four of the last six and Royal Dornoch looked back to his old self last time. Following a couple of poor performances at the beginning of the campaign, he’s been freshened up. Settled off the pace lover this course and distance, he came through with a rattle and looked a reformed character. Seamie Heffernan is back on board today and I’m expecting the pair to do the same as last time. If there is a pace burn up early, this could fall into his lap.

Bet
Royal Dornoch – 0.5pts Each Way (10/1 – 1/5 odds 3 places)

5.15pm – Paddy Power ‘Is It 2021 Yet?’ Stakes (Group 3) (1m4f)

Tiger Moth was second in the Irish Derby on just his third start and is understandably short in the betting for this. Patrick Sarsfield and Buckhurst are joint top-rated in the field, but have to concede weight all round under penalties.

If any of the older horses are going to improve, I believe it’ll be Up Helly Aa. Having never been outside the top two, he’s consistent at a decent level. His reappearance was encouraging when just getting denied in the final stride by a horse swooping down the outside. Even though his Dam didn’t get further than a mile, Up Helly Aa looks as though he’s crying out for further. The way he shapes, a mile and a half should be right up his street.

Bet
Up Helly Aa – 0.5pts Each Way (12/1 – 1/5 odds 4 places)

5.50pm – Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Sovereign Path’ Handicap (Premier Handicap) (7f)

A very tricky race to solve, but in terms of an each way bet, I’m opting for a maiden. Agitare has never won a race, but he’s also never been out of the first four. His fourth in the Irish Cambridgeshire is good handicap form and he’s on the same mark here. He probably doesn’t have much in hand, but his consistency makes him a worthy each way bet.

Bet
Agitare – 0.5pts Each Way (14/1 – 1/4 odds 4 places)