Get ready for bonanza weekend as the stars come out to play

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Sat 9 Sep 2017

By Geoffrey Riddle

It is the perfect 10.

In just five hours Haydock, Leopardstown and Kempton will stage a glut of Group-race action on Saturday afternoon.

The drama starts with the Listed 32Red Ascendant Stakes at the Merseyside track and builds to a climax with dual Classic winner Churchill, like some Shakespearean tragic figure trying to redeem his reputation, bringing the curtain down in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown at 6.45pm.

In between potential champions-elect Harry Angel and Winter will try to dominate the limelight respectively in the 32Red Sprint Cup and the Coolmore Fastneck Rock Matron Stakes.

Curragh Races - Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas Raceday Churchill is a best-priced 11-10 with Betfair and Paddy Power for Saturday (PA)

If that is not enough there are 13 Group races across Europe on Sunday spread across England, Ireland, France and Germany.

The cast includes former Gold Cup winner Order Of St George in the Comer Group International Irish St. Leger, fallen hero Caravaggio in the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes, Cracksman in the Qatar Prix Niel and Ribchester in the Qatar Prix Du Moulin.

It is not all about established talent, either. Gustav Klimt’s outrageous and virtuoso exhibition at the July meeting put his name up in lights at Newmarket.

His Objet d’Art at Headquarters has resulted in quotes of 1-2 for the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes. Magical, the Debutante Stakes winner, narrowly shades stablemate Clemmie as favourite for the Moyglare Stud Matron Stakes.

Top billing across the weekend almost certainly goes to the admirable grey Winter, the dual Guineas, Coronation and Nassau Stakes winner. Alongside stable companion Order Of St George, the progeny of Galileo are the only two of the mega-watt stars on show who have been able to stretch their immense talent on the likely soft ground at the top level previously.

The forecast rain threatens to wash away some of the supporting performances.

Chantilly is due a downpour on Saturday, while Haydock already was touching heavy ground on Friday. Ribchester floundered in the uncharacteristic monsoon in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last month, while John Gosden, Cracksman’s trainer, was so concerned at the Chantilly surface, which this week was dug up by some terrible boars, that he travelled to France in person to inspect the track.

Harry Angel has flourished this season on fast surfaces with wins in the July Cup and the Sandy Lane Stakes and there is no guarantee that the son of Dark Angel will appreciate rain-softened ground, like main rival Brando, despite having won on good to soft at Newbury last season.

There is 7mm of rain in the offering at the Curragh leading up to Sunday, too. Caravaggio beat 17 others in the Coventry Stakes on soft ground last season and built up an impressive body of work that made him an international sensation following his victory over Harry Angel at Royal Ascot in June.

Since then it is almost as if the son of American sire Scat Daddy has forgotten his lines. Dropping back to five furlongs does not look ideal, either, no matter how fast trainer Aidan O’Brien believes him to be.

And here is the thing. Racing is a sport that lauds its champions, and to see Winter, Order Of St George, Caravaggio and Gustav Klimt all go in would be a wonder to behold. BetVictor are just 3-1 the master of Ballydoyle makes a clean sweep of the Group One races in Ireland across the two days.

Order Of St George Order Of St George is th shortest-priced favourite of the weekend at William Hill's 4-9 for the Itish St Leger (Racingfotos)

Sport also thrives on drama, however, and much as with 12 months ago Longines Irish Champions Weekend needs trainers throughout the Emerald Isle and beyond to prevent Aidan O’Brien from dominating on his doorstep.

Last season the A-Listers of Found and Minding were turned over in a tear-jerker for O'Brien, while Derby runner-up US Army Ranger and this season’s Derby favourite General Macarthur put on a horror show.

Some will wish for a Theatre Of Dreams this weekend, but I am hoping for Tales Of The Unexpected.

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