LONGINES Irish Champions Weekend is fast approaching and the entries and weights for the four €125,000 Irish European Breeders Fund-sponsored handicaps at Leopardstown and the Curragh on September 12 and 13 were released this week.
The Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Petingo’ Handicap is the first of the weekend’s premier handicaps at Leopardstown on Saturday week and Willie Mullins, the trainer with the best record in the race, has made seven entries as he bids for a fourth win. Mullins has won with Pique Sous, Laws Of Spin and Limini and last year’s narrow second, Buildmeupbuttercup, the Dreaming Cups Syndicate-owned Zenon and Great White Shark head his challenge.
Successful with Silwana in 2015 and Kastasa last year, Dermot Weld has made three entries, Rakan, Shamiyna and Haparanda with the former sitting at the head of the weights, just above the Johnny Murtagh-trained Mirann, owned by Australian-based OTI Racing. Murtagh has also entered Red Kelly, owned by the Red Kelly Syndicate and Maura Gittins’ Springbank.
Tony Mullins has given the much-improved Paddy Keogh-owned Princess Zoe an entry and last year’s fourth, Edification is there for Monasterevin trainer Mark Fahey and owner Michelle Deane Murray.
Ado McGuinness has made two entries for the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Sovereign Path’ Handicap, a race he won last year with Current Option. His part-owners Dooley Thoroughbreds are represented this time by Sirjack Thomas while McGuinness has also entered the Galaxy Horse Racing-owned Trading Point.
County Carlow trainer Barry Fitzgerald and owner Michael Foley have made great strides with Beauchamp Bagenal and he sits closer to the top of the handicap which is headed by last Friday’s Paddy Power Irish Cambridgeshire winner, the Gerry Keane-trained Laughifuwant. Two recent wins in the hands of apprentice Nikita Kane also sees Lord Rapscallion in the top half-dozen. Joseph O’Brien’s hat-trick seeker Fame And Acclaim, the Damian English-trained Geological, Matthew Smith’s Flaming Moon and the Eddie Lynam-trained Romantic Proposal are other interesting entries.
The Richard Fahey-trained Zap won the ‘Sovereign Path’ in 2018 and features in a four-strong entry from the Malton trainer. David Barron is a Longines Irish Champions Weekend winner with New Bidder and he has entered Another Batt as British-based trainers chase a fifth victory in the race.
Similarly, there has been four previous British-trained winners of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Bold Lad’ Handicap and there are six strong entries from across the Irish Sea for the latest renewal at the Curragh on Sunday, September 13.
David O’Meara won the race in 2014 with Watchable and could be represented this time by Gulliver, third to Buffer Zone and Make A Challenge a year ago and a narrow runner-up to the Eddie Lynam-trained Romantic Proposal in the Paddy Power Scurry Handicap at the Curragh in July. George Bowen was Richard Fahey’s winner in 2015 and he has entered both Mr Lupton and Brian The Snail while Gunmetal would bid to give David Barron a second ‘Bold Lad’ victory after the success of New Bidder in 2016. Highland Dress and the recent Goodwood winner Treacherous could yet run for Archie Watson and Ed de Giles respectively.
The home challenge could be led by the Willie McCreery-trained and Donal Finnan-owned Downforce, joint top-weight with Gulliver, along with Ken Condon’s Schroders Mistake. Soffia was a winner for Eddie Lynam in 2018 and his Romantic Proposal and Tide Of Time would be other leading hopes, as would the Tim Doyle-trained Spanish Tenor, Dermot Weld’s Baraniya, Johnny Levins’ Nordic Passage and Big Gossey, trained by Charles O’Brien.
The final handicap and the final race of Longines Irish Champions Weekend 2020 is the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Northfields’ Handicap which went to the remarkable One Cool Poet last year. His trainer Matthew Smith has entered the Debbie Kelly-owned Flaming Moon which is already a Curragh winner this season.
Eight horses that ran in the race 12 months ago are entered once again, including Joseph O’Brien’s Numerian, the Ado McGuinness-trained Saltonstall and Tony Martin’s Tudor City which finished second, third and fourth. Hamley, the winner in 2018, was seventh for trainer Peter Fahey last year and she looks to be in the best of form after winning at Leopardstown last month.
Tim Husbands, Leopardstown CEO, said: “The Premier Handicaps at Leopardstown on Longines Irish Champions Weekend are always extremely competitive and this year is no different with an extensive and strong entry in both the Irish Stallion Farms ‘Petingo’ and ‘Sovereign Path’ Handicaps. We look forward to watching the 2020 renewals of these races which will, no doubt, be as exciting as previous years.”
Pat Keogh, CEO of the Curragh Racecourse, said: “We are very grateful for the continued support of the Irish European Breeders Fund whose contribution make these races among the most valuable and competitive handicaps in the calendar. It is particularly satisfying that so many horses that have run in the big handicaps here at the Curragh in previous years and indeed this summer look set to return for Longines Irish Champions Weekend.”