It is a sports lover's dream this weekend. We get underway Friday afternoon with England taking on New Zealand in a one day international at Cardiff followed by the Rugby World Cup opening match at Stade de France, Paris, in the evening. Come Saturday there is Rugby galore on ITV with four games scheduled including England's opener against Argentina. The footballers are in action as well with Euro qualifiers here, there and everywhere including England taking on Ukraine at 5.00. On Sunday there’s more Rugby World Cup action, more Euro Qualifiers in the world of football and the Cricket moves on to Southampton for the second of the ODI’s……….also over the weekend it’s the final of the US Open tennis and the Diamond League in athletics over in Brussels! All that aside we also of course have the Irish Champions Festival over in the Emerald Isle with some big races at Leopardstown and the Curragh. I am due to spend a few hours fishing on Sunday on a new syndicate lake I am a member of but barring those few hours it’s safe to say I will be glued to a TV screen somewhere watching the feast of sporting action.
Best bet for the Irish Champions Festival meeting
As it stands all of my fancies are actually running at the Irish Champions Festival. Unsurprisingly there are a number of runners from Ballydoyle over the weekend and they look to have a number in with very good chances; I hope so as I have backed some. They start the weekend at Leopardstown where the going is described as good, good-firm in places.
I still find it hard to believe Tahiyra isn’t unbeaten; Mawj being the fly in the ointment in the 1,000 Guineas. I can’t see her getting beaten in the mile Group One Coolmore America 'Justify' Matron Stakes at 2.45 on Saturday. Stable mate Homeless Songs is a good filly, I’ve tipped her more than once including when she won the Irish 1,000 last season, but it is a big ask to give the selection 5lb and she’s been off the track since April - it could be a Weld one-two though. I am on the Jolly at Evens with Hills.
The 1m2f Group One Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes at 3.20 on Saturday is one of the more open races of the weekend. King Of Steel, Auguste Rodin, Alflaila, Onesto, Nashwa, Al Riffa and Luxembourg can all be shortlisted. Point Lonsdale is on pacemaker duties I assume again as he was in the King George last time, not that things went to plan for team Ballydoyle there. You can put a line through that run for Auguste Rodin and the double Derby winner can’t be ignored if bouncing back to form. I have actually decided to leave the race alone as I think it is simply too close to call and can make a case for most of the field.
I’ve tipped Adelaide River twice this year, when second at Chester and second at Longchamp. He’s a decent performer and the Group Three 1m4f Paddy Power Stakes looks his for the taking if he runs to his usual level. I thought he might be a shade odds-on so I grabbed a bit of the 13-8 Friday afternoon as I think the ground will be okay for him though a little more give underhoof would have been preferred.
They move to the Curragh for Sunday and the going there is also good, good-firm in places.
They won’t be hanging about in the Group One 5f Al Basti Equiworld, Dubai Flying Five Stakes at 2.55. Everybody knows Art Power loves the Curragh, has won here four times now including over track and trip when taking the G.2 Sapphire Stakes in July. The better going this weekend is not in his favour though. Highfield Princess and Bradsell are genuine top-table performers and it will be no surprise to see both in the shake-up at the end. Highfield Princess has been the model of consistency for the last couple of years and gets a little bit of weight from her main rivals as a mare so my slight preference is for her. I think she should get a nice tow into the race from Art Power and can run him down late. I am on as of Friday afternoon at 11-8.
Ylang Ylang is 10-11 for the 7f Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes at 3.25 as of Friday afternoon but still looks backable to me. She has won both her starts to date in the style of a good one including the 7f G.3 Jockey Club Of Turkey Silver Flash Stakes last time with Vespertilio second. I see no reason why the form should be reversed unless the Ballydoyle filly struggles on the faster ground here but she won on good on her debut so she shouldn’t.
Now where's that TV remote.