Odds cut on O’Brien delivering clean sweep in ‘Champions Weekend’

Churchill odds-on for Irish Champion Stakes; O’Brien is 25-1 to win all Group One races

Churchill is odds-on in some lists for next Saturday’s QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes and the price on Aidan O’Brien pulling off an unprecedented  clean sweep of all five Group One races during “Irish Champions Weekend” has also been cut.

Europe’s dominant trainer is only 25-1 to win every top-flight contest at the fourth edition of Irish racing’s €4.6 million international showcase staged over two days at Leopardstown and the Curragh.

With Churchill now rated a 10-11 shot with some firms for the €1.25 million Day One highlight, he joins other Ballydoyle stars, Order Of St George and Winter, as an odds-on market leader while O’Brien also dominates the top of the Moyglare Stud Stakes betting.

Only the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Expert Eye bucks Ballydoyle’s Group One dominance in the Goffs National Stakes but if the exciting cross-channel juvenile does line up at the Curragh on Sunday week he is likely to face a powerful O’Brien squad.


The precise final make-up of the major two-year-old prizes will become clearer after Tuesday’s vital forfeit stage but the complexion of the Irish Champion Stakes is becoming increasingly dominated by Churchill, O’Brien’s top classic colt of 2017.

Ireland’s champion trainer has won the Irish Champion Stakes a record seven times but never under the “Champions Weekend” banner, the sole Group One exception during the two days since flat racing’s most valuable races were put together for the flagship event.


However, with potential opposition to Churchill dropping away, bookmakers reckon that gap is likely to be filled next week. The dual-Guineas winner’s older stable companion, Highland Reel, is second favourite after confirmation that Churchill’s York conqueror, Ulysses, won’t line up.

“It is 25-1 about a Ballydoyle clean sweep. It would have been 33-1 before Ulysses was ruled out of the big one,” said the RaceBet sposkesman Joseph Burke on Friday.

With Barney Roy unlikely to appear again until next month's British Champions Day at Ascot, the Arc nominated as a target for Eminent, and doubts about whether Cracksman will even appear again this season, the way increasingly appears to be clearing for Churchill to resume winning ways next week.

Winter is a hot favourite to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner Alice Springs in the Coolmore Matron Stakes – Leopardstown’s other Group One prize – while Order Of St George is odds on to make up for his shock 2016 defeat at 1-7 in the following day’s Comer Group Irish St Leger.

Churchill’s sister, Clemmie, tops a formidable O’Brien team of juvenile fillies for the Moyglare which could also include September, Happily and Magical.

This weekend's home action represents a decided lull before that storm of top-class action with no card on the Sunday of the All-Ireland hurling final.

Sole runner

Intelligence Cross is O’Brien’s sole runner at Navan’s flat programme where the colt who has been helping to cut out pace for his stable companion Caravaggio this season gets the chance to shine.

Intelligence Cross takes on his old rival Mr Scarlet in a five-furlong conditions event and is rated to emerge on top. The War Front colt is a high-class sprinter in his own right as he proved when only just over two lengths off Harry Angel in the July Cup.

Pat Smullen's rejuvenated title challenge is hitting top gear and the Dermot Weld trio of A Likely Story, India Rain and Frima can score for the champion jockey.

Not a lot went right for India Rain on her last start at Tipperary but Treasuring has boosted the form since and Weld’s runner can take advantage of a 2lb ratings drop in the Nursery.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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