Saxon Warrior set to lead home defence for Irish Champion Stakes
Intense Stylist lines up for Listowel sprint handicap under champion jockey Colin Keane
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Saxon Warrior. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
O’Brien holds a record seven victories in this Saturday’s €1.25 million contest, the feature event of what will be the fifth year of the €4.6 million “Champions Weekend” extravaganza. However the last of those seven was with So You Think in 2011, and for the last six years Leopardstown’s highlight has gone for export.
Almanzor scored for France in 2016, but the others have all been British-based winners, and Roaring Lion is a warm favourite to add to that tally on Saturday.
The John Gosden-trained star edged ahead of Saxon Warrior three to two in their career rivalry when successful in York’s Juddmonte International last month. Saxon Warrior could finish only fourth on that occasion, having been previously narrowly beaten by Roaring Lion in the Eclipse.
However with Study Of Man on course to fly the French flag on Saturday, Saxon Warrior looks set to lead the home defence in the international clash after O’Brien reported: “The plan is to run Saxon Warrior in the Irish Champion once we’re happy with him next week.”
O’Brien has half a dozen runners at day two of Listowel’s “Harvest Festival”, including a trio of fillies for the listed feature. They include both Hence and Curly among a total of nine three-year-olds taking on their seniors, although if ground conditions get softer they could all have to go some to cope with Allegio. Denis Hogan’s 104 rated five-year-old won twice at Cork in the spring, the second time by a massive 31 lengths on near unraceable ground.
Conditions won’t be like that here even with a forecast of rain, but after four runs on quick going since those Cork victories he should appreciate some autumn ease.
The same could be said for last year’s festival winner Intense Stylist, who lines up for the sprint handicap under champion jockey Colin Keane.
Three days after her maiden success here Intense Stylist also ran third in a handicap off a mark of 65. She is on 50 for this race after a largely disappointing season, but significantly Intense Stylist ran better last time out at Killarney.
Dream Of Words won on heavy ground at Gowran in May, and looks interesting in a later fillies handicap considering she had little luck in running at Roscommon last week.