The Irish Champion Stakes is one of Ireland’s richest horse races and is regularly rated as one of the top flat races on the planet. The contest takes place at Leopardstown, Dublin, in September and was run for the first time in 1976.
Won by greats such as Magical, Roaring Lion, Golden Horn and Almanzor in the past five years alone, the race regularly attracts a field to match its excellent prize money.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 12th September 2020
- Winner: Magical
- SP: 9/2
- Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
- Jockey: Seamie Heffernan
This classy Group 1 contests offers a huge €750,000 in total prize money and sees a field of runners aged three and older tackle the 1m2f trip. The ground at the track is currently described as good and we look well set for a superb contest.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good||1m2f||Group 1||€750,000||6 Runners||1/5 1-3|
Irish Champion Stakes Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
As is the case in so many of the top Irish and British Group 1 events, it is the name of Aidan O’Brien which tops the table in this race. Successful last season with Magical, Aidan has now landed the prize an impressive eight times in total. O’Brien boasts strong claims numerically this year, with half of the six-runner field hailing from his yard – including the defending champion, Magical.
One of the biggest clashes of the season between the Classic generation and their elders, the race has featured a dead even split over the past 10 years, with five editions having been landed by the three year olds, and five by the older generation.
The favourites have won a respectable four of the past 10 renewals of this, but with the odds returned leaning firmly towards the short side, supporters of the market leader have suffered a level stakes loss of -£2.67 over this period. We have a big odds-on favourite once again this year but can Ghaiyyath deliver and help improve that figure?
|Ghaiyyath||8/13||130||Charlie Appleby||William Buick|
|Magical||11/2||121||Aidan O'Brien||Seamie Heffernan|
Ghaiyyath – 8/13
Aidan O’Brien may have the numerical edge over Charlie Appleby here, with three runners compared to just one for the English trainer. However, when your “one” is the horse rated as the best on the planet, it may well be that one is all you need. Ghaiyyath is proving popular in the market and rightly so in our opinion.
Sired by Dubawi, and out of a Galileo mare, the Godolphin runner Ghaiyyath is certainly made of the right stuff on paper - with that combination representing just about the dream breeding matchup in the modern day.
And whilst the jury was still out as to the real quality of his form headed into the current season, this resolute galloper has now blown any detractors well and truly out of the water. Four starts in 2020 have yielded four wins, with the likes of Epsom Derby champ, Anthony Van Dyck, multiple Group 1 winner, Magical, and one of the greatest fillies of all time, Enable featuring amongst the vanquished.
By no means a flashy horse, Ghaiyyath is not the type to quicken up smartly in the closing stages; he simply bludgeons his rivals into submission by sustaining a gallop that, so far this season, nothing has been able to live with. One of the stars of the campaign to date, he will likely take some stopping if anywhere near his best. Given the results in the book it seems more than likely he will be once again at that sort of level and clearly will take some beating here.
Magical – 11/2
Of course it isn’t for nothing that Aidan O’Brien has more Group 1 wins than most of us have had hot dinners, and anyone drawing a line through the chances of Armory, Japan and Magical would be doing a serious disservice to the considerable talents of Ireland’s master trainer.
Japan looked to have the potential to go right to the top this season, but has so far run a touch below expectations, whilst Armory is yet to show anything which would suggest he is up to this. As such, it may well be that – if there is to be an upset – the defending champion Magical may be the one most likely to provide it.
One of the best servants in the O’Brien yard, this six-time Group 1 winner owes absolutely nothing to connections and is just the latest in a long line of horses to advertise the longevity and class provided by sire Galileo. Well on top when coming home 2¼l to the good in the race 12 months ago, she appeared as well as ever in landing the Pretty Polly Stakes and Tattersalls Gold Cup on her first two starts of the current campaign, proving all the old ability remained now that she is into her fifth year.
That winning run was however brought to an end last time out at York where, despite finishing clear of the rest, she couldn’t get to within three lengths of Ghaiyyath at the line. That leaves her with work to do, but it is Ghaiyyath who has the travelling to do this time around, and she remains the horse most likely to expose any chinks in the favourite’s armoury.
Irish Champion Stakes Winners
|2020||Magical||9/2||Aidan O'Brien||Seamie Heffernan|
|2019||Magical||11/10||Aidan O'Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2018||Roaring Lion||8/11||John Gosden||Frankie Dettori|
|2017||Decorated Knight||25/1||Roger Charlton||Andrea Atzeni|
|2016||Almanzor||7/1||Jean-Claude Rouget||Christophe Soumillon|
|2015||Golden Horn||5/4||John Gosden||Frankie Dettori|
|2014||The Grey Gatsby||7/1||Kevin Ryan||Ryan Moore|
|2013||The Fugue||4/1||John Gosden||William Buick|
|2012||Snow Fairy||15/8||Ed Dunlop||Frankie Dettori|
|2011||So You Think||1/4||Aidan O'Brien||Seamie Heffernan|
About the Irish Champions Stakes
One of the real joys of the latter part of the flat racing season is when the three-year-olds start taking on their elders. For much of the season the leading members of the Classic generation run in age restricted contests but that changes by the time we get to September and we really get to see who is the best of them all.
The Irish Champion Stakes is one of the biggest such races. Held at Leopardstown every September, this is an incredibly valuable contest which saw the prize fund reach €1,250,000 for the 2019 renewal, dropping to €750,000. It is always contested by a high class field comprising both three-year-olds and those with more experience, and plays a key role in Longines Irish Champions Weekend which includes six Group 1 races held at both Leopardstown and the Curragh.
A KEY PART OF THE FLAT SEASON
The Irish Champion Stakes was a pretty big hit when it was introduced in 1976 as the Joe McGrath Memorial Stakes. McGrath’s name carried a lot of clout as he was a well-regarded racehorse owner but it was soon all change with the race being renamed the Phoenix Champion Stakes in 1984 when it was also moved to Phoenix Park.
It wasn’t until Phoenix Park was closed that the race came back to Leopardstown in 1991 and became known by its current name. That return to Leopardstown helped the Irish Champion Stakes grow to the point where it has become one of the biggest races of the entire Irish flat racing season.
Although connections of every horse in the race want to get their hands on the huge prizes on offer, the Irish Champion Stakes is also used as a chance to prepare horses of the highest calibre of further big races. For example, the winner gets an invitation to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, whilst horses who run well go on to compete in races such as the Prix de l’ Arc de Triomphe and the Champions Stakes at Ascot.
Same Season IRISH & ENGLISH CHAMPION STAKES WINNERS: 1976 – 2019
|2019||Magical||Aidan O’Brien||R. Moore & D. O’Brien|
|2016||Alamnzor||Jean-Claude Rouget||Christophe Soumillon|
|2008||New Approach||Jim Bolger||Kevin Manning|
|1997||Pilsudski||Sir Michael Stoute||Michael Kinane|
|1988||Indian Skimmer||Henry Cecil||Michael Roberts|
|1987||Triptych||Patrick Biancone||Tony Cruz|
PROVEN CLASS NON NEGOTIABLE
One of the key reasons that the Irish Champion Stakes regularly attracts some of the best horses in training is its distance of 1 mile 2 furlongs. The best of the best tend to race between 1 and 1½ miles and with so many potentially lucrative routes to follow from a win at Leopardstown, the Irish Champion Stakes has become a crucial contest.
As it is both a race for high class younger horses and those with more experience it is perhaps not surprising that a combination of three-year-olds and older horses have won the Irish Champion Stakes in recent years. It is relatively rare for horses aged five and older to win but Decorated Knight, Snow Fairy and So You Think have all got the job done since 2011.
Whatever the age of the horse they’ve chosen to back, punters know that winning a Group 1 race previously is a prerequisite for success in the Irish Champion Stakes. Success over the trip is similarly important, whilst those towards the top of the betting have had the better of recent renewals.
Aidan O’Brien knows better than anybody what it takes to win the Irish Champion Stakes. As of 2019 he has trained the winner eight times, including with Dylan Thomas, who became the first horse to win the race in consecutive years in 2006 and 2007.