Irish Champion Stakes Tips: Ghaiyyath to outclass rivals

Ghaiyyath has produced some sparkling performances this season.
Ghaiyyath has produced some sparkling performances this season.

Steve Chambers previews Saturday's Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, where multiple Group 1 winners Ghaiyyath and Magical clash in a vintage renewal..

A mouth-watering duel between two Flat racing heavyweights will light up the Irish Champion Stakes, as Godolphin's win machine Ghaiyyath will lock horns with an Aidan O'Brien-trained duo of Magical and Japan in what should produce a scintillating Group 1 showpiece that sees a field of six go to post. An astonishing 14 Group 1 wins have been won by the six contenders between them, with French star Sottsass adding yet more depth to a contest jam-packed with quality.

Charlie Appleby's Ghaiyyath has rocketed into the limelight this season notching up a plethora of top-class wins, and the five-year-old will be aiming to extend his unbeaten run to five races when he heads to the Emerald Isle this weekend. Having kicked off his British campaign with a facile two and a half length victory in the Coronation Cup at Newmarket, the son of Dubawi then comfortably outclassed Enable by over two lengths in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park.

Enhancing his already lofty reputation further with a dominant victory in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes at York's Ebor Festival last month, Ghaiyyath has quickly become one of the most exciting, classy equine talents in training.

With a possible tilt at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe next month in France, where he could lock horns again with Sandown rival Enable, Ghaiyyath has been handed the Irish Champion Stakes as his next assignment, as he goes in search of a fourth Group 1 win on the bounce. Arguably the finest ten-furlong horse in training, Ghaiyyath will line up over that trip again on Saturday, and with Appleby confirming his well-being at the declaration stage it's no surprise to see the Godolphin raider installed as an odds-on favourite.

Ghaiyyath cruised to an emphatic three-length victory in the Juddmonte and he will be hoping to frank the form with Magical, who chased home Appleby's superstar on the Knavesmire. William Buick is sure to adopt the usual front-running tactics on board Ghaiyyath, who has made a habit of getting classy horses out of their comfort zone by maintaining a fierce gallop from the outset, and while Magical heads to Leopardstown as the reigning champion in the Irish Champion Stakes, it's hard to see her reversing their recent York form, and Ghaiyyath looks to have a fairly straightforward task if he can continue his blistering displays.

A hugely impressive two and a quarter length winner of the 2019 Irish Champion Stakes, Magical headed into the aforementioned Juddmonte in fine form, as she won both the Pretty Polly Stakes and the Tattersalls Gold Cup, but she was no match for Ghaiyyath, who dominated from the get-go. 

The five-year-old mare may have 11 wins to her name - with most of those coming in Group events - but she has often beaten significantly inferior rivals in those victories, and has then come unstuck when taking on top-class performers. She was beaten by Enable on two occasions last season, while she was defeated by Crystal Ocean at Royal Ascot, so while you can't crab her ability in Group 1 races, she can often struggle at the very highest level, and in Ghaiyyath she looks to have another thorn in her side that she can't dislodge.

Eye-catchingly, Ballydoyle's number one jockey Ryan Moore has opted to ride Japan rather than partner Magical, and that has forced the bookmakers to trim Japan's odds and lengthen Magical's odds. So, at the time of writing, Japan is slightly shorter in the betting, but he has to produce his A-game if he is to down the Godolphin hotpot.

Japan is often well-supported in the market with good vibes reverberating around the track about the O'Brien raider on a regular occasion, but he has often come unstuck in top-notch races, and while he has some big-race wins on his CV (2019 Juddmonte International, 2019 Grand Prix de Paris), he has often flattered to deceive on occasions. Well beaten by Ghaiyyath when the pair clashed in the Coral-Eclipse earlier in the season, Japan also disappointed when last of three in the King George at Ascot, where he was outclassed by Enable. So, while there's always that nagging doubt that he may get his act together to claim another Group 1 success, it's hard to back him with any confidence, and Ghaiyyath can frank the recent Sandown form and get the better of Japan this weekend.

Jean-Claude Rouget's Sottsass will add a significant element of spice to the Irish Champion Stakes, as he ventures to Irish shores for the first time. A narrow winner of the Prix Ganay in June, when sent off an odds-on favourite, the four-year-old son of Siyouni then failed to follow that up in Group 3 company next time out, as he could only finish second when sent off a clear odds-on favourite again.

He finished a fine third in the Arc 12 months ago, and he is likely to be targeted at that once again next month, but you could argue that his best performances have come over 1m 4f, so Saturday's 1m 2f test against a relentless galloper in Ghaiyyath could see him come unstuck, and while he adds a fascinating depth to the race, he will struggle to feature prominently at the finish.

The field of six is completed with two huge outsiders, with Armory providing more ammunition for Aidan O'Brien, but he looks to be up against it and looks the least likely winner of the Ballydoyle triumvirate. A Group 3 winner last time out shows he does possess some ability, but he was well beaten by Magical in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, and he could well be used to assist his stablemates and possibly take on Ghaiyyath for the lead through the early stages and look to upset the hot favourite on the front end.

Jessica Harrington's Leo De Fury completes the line-up, and he was not only beaten by Armory in that aforementioned Group 3, but he has also been well beaten by Magical as well this campaign, so he will be hoping that some of the star names can flop, and he can pick up the pieces in a race that can be dominated by the superstar Ghaiyyath, who can demolish his rivals from the outset, and victory in Ireland can continue his spectacular season on the level.


Irish Champion Stakes, Saturday 12th September - back Ghaiyyath at 8/13


Irish Champion Stakes
Ghaiyyath silk


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