Irish Champion Stakes 2015: Leopardstown tries to beat weather with early start for race

Move scuppers Frankie Dettori's plan to ride in both the St Leger and over in Ireland this weekend

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The Independent Online

The Irish Champion Stakes has been brought forward by 65 minutes on Saturday in an attempt to counter the anticipated effects of the bad weather due to arrive at Leopardstown some time this evening. The change means that Frankie Dettori will not now ride the joint-favourite Bondi Beach in the St Leger at Doncaster. William Buick will deputise.

The plan had been for Dettori to partner Aidan O’Brien’s colt in the season’s final Classic and then fly to Ireland to ride the Derby winner Golden Horn, but now there are just two hours between the two races and his agent, Ray Cochrane, said: “It’s much too tight.”

Leopardstown’s highlight will now be run at 5.45pm, the first race on the card to be run on the outside track, which is currently riding fast, as course officials strive to provide less churned-up ground.

This would certainly help Golden Horn and the 2,000 Guineas winner Gleneagles and allow the match-up all racing wants to see to go ahead at last, although connections of the remarkable French veteran Cirrus Des Aigles, who has won the majority of his seven Group Ones on a soft or heavy surface, might not be quite so thrilled.

Golden Horn’s trainer, John Gosden, said that he could “fully understand” the decision to race on fresh ground, but added that he would still not be able to commit to running until he had walked the Leopardstown track late tomorrow morning.

“Now we’re on rain watch,” he said after Gretchen had supplied the yard with a nicely timed boost by winning the Group Two Park Hill Stakes at Town Moor. “Of course, the ground is a huge concern. We are keen to run and if it’s good to soft he will run, but if it gets really soft it’s a different matter.”

John Gosden plans to walk the course at Leopardstown before deciding on whether to run Golden Horn (Reuters)

If the weather does not spoil it, the Irish Champion promises to be the race of the decade – with Free Eagle, Found, Pleascach, Highland Reel and last year’s winner The Grey Gatsby completing the octet declared, the winners of 20 Group Ones between them.

Dettori usually reserves his flying dismounts for Group winners, but was moved to perform his trademark celebration after the opening nursery handicap at Doncaster, such was the impression made on him and a packed house by Nemoralia, who, under top weight, turned what was supposed to be an ultra-competitive handicap into a procession.

Unsurprisingly, her trainer,  Jeremy Noseda, is now raising the US-bred youngster’s sights a few notches. “The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on dirt has been on my mind for a few months,” he said, a plan Dettori is more than happy to go along with.

Clondaw Warrior and Fun Mac, first and second in the Ascot Stakes at the royal meeting in June, hold sound claims in a slightly substandard renewal of the Doncaster Cup on Friday, but Havana Beat looks a better proposition each-way at around 14-1. Andrew Balding’s gelding does not win very often, but has picked up substantial place money in better company than this and if running to his best will finish right in the mix.

Gutaifan has been a revelation on his two most recent starts, both in France, winning a Group Two and then chasing home the brilliant juvenile Shalaa in a Group One. He has the speed to end Bear Cheek’s unbeaten record on a step back to five furlongs in the Flying Childers Stakes.

Hawksmoor looked to be crying out for the mile of the May Hill Stakes when getting up late over seven furlongs in the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood recently and is fancied to see off a potent Irish challenge.