If 'Irish Champions Weekend' shapes as if it is likely to be dominated by Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle team, then Frankie Dettori is set to add some vital competitive sparkle to the mix in Leopardstown's Saturday feature.
Racing’s greatest showman needs just one more success in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes to equal Mick Kinane’s record of seven wins in the €1.25 million highlight and has been booked to ride the English challenger Eminent.
It is a timely boost for the most valuable race of this weekend’s €4.6m extravaganza which sees O’Brien’s pair of dual-Guineas winners, Churchill and Winter, dominating a 14-strong entry left in at Tuesday’s forfeit stage.
Churchill remains an odds-on favourite for the Champion Stakes with many firms as Winter is also engaged in the Coolmore Matron Stakes on Saturday. Paddy Power go just 11-4 about O’Brien winning all five Group One races this weekend.
Dettori could renew his association with the Gold Cup winner Big Orange in Sunday's Comer Group Irish St Leger while betting for the Curragh's top juvenile heats, the Goffs National Stakes and the Moyglare Stud Stakes, is dominated by Ballydoyle.
Eminent’s addition to the Champion Stakes reckoning will be welcomed by the ‘Champions Weekend’ authorities as Irish flat racing’s international showcase is staged for a fourth year at Ireland’s top two flat tracks.
Eminent and the Michael Stoute-trained Poet’s Word bring an added international element even if both have yet to strike at the top level.
Eminent did return to winning form in a French Group Two last time out however and looks set to line up on Saturday rather than the Arc next month.
“I think if he runs on Sunday it might be his last run [of the season]. He would need to win and win well for us to think about running in the Arc,” said his trainer Martyn Meade. “I think the win in France did the horse a lot of good and Frankie Dettori is booked to ride.”
The 46-year-old Italian superstar rider first won the Champion Stakes in 1998 on Swain, the first four wins in a golden five-year stretch, including a memorable 2001 duel between Fantastic Light and Galileo.
Dettori has also won on Snow Fairy (2012) and Golden Horn who scored in 2015, leaving the jockey just one behind his former great rival Mick Kinane. No Irish-trained horse has won the race since So You Think in 2011, the last of O'Brien's seven winners.
Dartmouth, owned by Queen Elizabeth II, is one of 22 still left in the Leger but Sunday's two top-flight juvenile contests at HQ will have no overseas challenger.
Ballydoyle has 11 of the 18 left in the National Stakes with Gustav Klimt a hot odds-on favourite. His stable companions, Clemmie, Happily and Magical dominate the top of the Moyglare betting.
Fans of Saxon Warrior in terms of next year’s classic will hope the colt he beat on his exciting Curragh debut – Meagher’s Flag – can boost the form at Gowran on Wednesday.