Roaring Lion to continue fine season in Irish Champion Stakes

Oisin Murphy happy with ground as Aidan O’Brien prepares to launch six-strong challenge

Roarin Lion is an odds-on favourite to take Saturday’s Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

Roarin Lion is an odds-on favourite to take Saturday’s Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

 

Ground conditions could be set to ease at Leopardstown ahead of Saturday’s QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes although jockey Oisin Murphy doesn’t envisage going being a problem for the odds-on favourite Roaring Lion.

The Qatar Racing owned colt moved to a best-priced 4-5 favourite for the €1.25 million ‘Irish Champions Weekend’ highlight after Tuesday’s forfeit stage.

That’s despite the prospect of Roaring Lion being taken on in strength by Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team which has six of the ten entries left in the race.

Roaring Lion’s old rival Saxon Warrior looks O’Brien’s number one. But he could be joined by the top-flight winning fillies Rhododendron and Athena who, like Magical, are also entered in Saturday’s other Group One, the Coolmore Matron Stakes.

Alpha Centauri is a red hot 2-5 favourite for that mile event and Roaring Lion is also odds-on for Day One of Irish racing’s €4.6 million ‘Champions Weekend’ showpiece.

Both Leopardstown and the Curragh are forecast rain this week with the Dublin track anticipating up to 6mms into Wednesday morning and an unsettled outlook through Thursday.

“I think he’s not ground dependant. Obviously he’s probably suited by fast ground because of his pedigree and everything. But he was unlucky not to win a Racing Post Trophy and that was on slow ground so I don’t have any concerns at the moment,” the Co. Kerry born jockey said on Tuesday.

Roaring Lion’s trainer John Gosden has won the Irish Champion Stakes twice - The Fugue (2013) and Golden Horn (2015) - in the time since Aidan O’Brien had the last of his seven wins in the race with So You Think in 2011.

With six of the ten left in Ireland’s champion trainer could have a pivotal say in the way it unfolds on Saturday. However Murphy will wait until Thursday’s final declarations before finalising tactical plans for the race.

“I don’t know what Aidan is going to run. The French horse (Study Of Man) is coming and will probably be midfield or further back. But until I see the draw I won’t give it much thought,” he said.

So You Think was the last odds-on favourite to win the Irish Champion Stakes and three have been beaten since.

Australia was 3-10 when turned over by The Grey Gatsby in 2014. A year before that Al Kazeem was 9-10 behind The Fugue while Churchill was an 8-11 flop in seventh behind Decorated Knight.

Saxon Warrior has been beaten by Roaring Lion in their last three clashes and is a general 3-1 second favourite to get the better of his English rival this time.

“He has a lot to do to overturn the form with Roaring Lion but we’re happy with how he’s prepared,” said Donnacha O’Brien who rode Saxon Warrior to his 2,000 Guineas success. “Roaring Lion has been very impressive and we have a lot to do to bridge the gap.”

One absent ‘Champions Weekend’ stalwart will be Order Of St George whose name doesn’t feature among seven Ballydoyle entries in the ten left in Sunday’s €500,000 Curragh feature, the Comer Group Irish St Leger.

The Doncaster contenders Kew Gardens and Latarobe also hold the Curragh Leger option while Weekender could represent John Gosden.

Godolphin’s Blue Point misses the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five after an unsatisfactory scope but Sheikh Mohammed is set to send his new purchase, Dark Vision, for the Goffs National Stakes and a likely clash with Anthony Van Dyck.

Dark Vision’s trainer Mark Johnston also has the option of running Main Edition in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

The ground at the Curragh is currently good on the round course and good to yielding in the straight.

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