(Image : Irish Times)
IRISH CHAMPION STAKES (Gr1)
Leopardstown, Turf, 2012m
8 September 2012
Johnny Murtagh may have felt cast adrift when his long-standing riding contract with the powerful Aga Khan stable was severed last month, but trainer John Oxx has remained staunch to the rider, and has retained him for the mount on Born To Sea (the smart half brother to Galileo, Sea The Stars etc,) for Saturday’s Irish Champion Stakes (Gr.1). It promises to be another grand advert for the quality of European racing this season, as it brings together a string of Group One winners including Nathaniel, Snow Fairy and Aidan O’Brien’sSt Nicholas Abbey, who will be looking to avenge his defeat at the hands of the superstar, Frankel, a fortnight ago at York.
The Irish Champion Stakes has thrown up any number of quite exceptional performers over the years, including: Sadler’s Wells (1984), Giant’s Causeway (2000), Fantastic Light (2001) who defeated Galileo, High Chaparral (2003), Oratorio (2005), Dylan Thomas (2006 and 2007), New Approach (2008), Sea The Stars (2009), Cape Blanco (2010) and So You Think (2011). Some honour roll! We have our own “almost-hero” of the same race right here at Summerhill in our new stallion, Traffic Guard, who went down a half length to the world’s top-rated three-year-old of 2008, New Approach, now Europe’s hottest young stallion with his first crop.