Dawn Approach leads Irish team into Champions Day

Ruler has history to battle as well as Cirrus Des Aigles

Classic heroes Dawn Approach and Ruler Of The World head a team of 17 Irish-trained horses into the near €4 million "Champions Day" beano which has its first post-Frankel incarnation at Ascot today.

Frankel dominated the first two instalments of British racing’s industry advertisement and while replicating the great horse’s impact is impossible, those predicting an end of season anti-climax look to have been off-beam.

The presence of the Guineas winner Dawn Approach on his possible career swansong, and the Derby victor Ruler Of The World, allied to the Oaks heroine Talent as well, means three of the four English classic winners have made it to mid-October and only soft ground prevented the 1,000 Guineas winner Sky Lantern joining them.

That a number of Irish runners are also appearing this afternoon at Cheltenham testifies to how close the end of the flat campaign is in this part of the world but there are still plenty potential reverberations to be had before the international scene takes over in Australia and at the Breeders’ Cup.

If Ruler Of The World can upset the hot French favourite Cirrus Des Aigles in the Qipco Champion Stakes, then the near €350,000 Aidan O'Brien trails Richard Hannon by in the British Champion Trainers title will be wiped out. And if Kingsbarns can also upset the odds in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes then a fifth British title for O'Brien is assured.

Hannon's QEII hope is the soft ground loving Olympic Glory who finished ahead of Dawn Approach in August's Prix Jacques Le Marois and who now looks to have conditions to suit in what could be a frantic mile feature.

With plenty of pace seemingly assured, Dawn Approach faces a huge task in a race that also includes the hugely popular Gordon Lord Byron from Tom Hogan's yard. Jim Bolger though is not prepared to look for ground excuses.

"The ground is what it is, we'll just have to take it as it is," he said yesterday. "The softest he's run on was at Goodwood and he didn't run up to his best that day, but I put that down to the track more than the ground. Everyone knows he wasn't right in France and now we move on."

Add to CV
New Approach in 2008 was the only Derby winner since Sir Ivor 40 years previously to add the Champion Stakes to his CV so history, as well as Cirrus De Aigles and a number of other Group One stars, are against Ruler Of The World today. Ryan Moore though rides the Ballydoyle horse in preference to Hillstar.

It might be long odds-against to happen again but the potential is there for Irish horses to repeat last year's remarkable clean-sweep of the first four races with Johnny Murtagh supplementing Belle de Crecy into the Fillies & Mares Stakes, four Irish yards lining up in the Long Distance Cup and the Abbaye winner Maarek bidding to make it back-to-back wins in the Sprint.

“Anyone who saw the buck and kicks Maarek was trying out on the track today couldn’t question his wellbeing,” a spokesperson for trainer Barry Lalor said yesterday.

“He seems to have literally bounced out of his race in France!”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column