After Saturday’s festivities at Leopardstown, Irish Champions Weekend culminates in a spectacular Sunday at the Curragh. Two Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races are among a quartet of Group 1s, and champion filly Love looks to rebound on the undercard.
Flying Five (G1) – Race 3 (9:55 a.m. ET)
One year ago, Glass Slippers booked her Breeders’ Cup ticket in the Flying Five (G1), and the British shipper later cashed in at Keeneland by becoming the first European to capture the Turf Sprint (G1). The Kevin Ryan mare now bids for a title defense in the aptly-named five-furlong dash at the Curragh.
Like last season, Glass Slippers comes off a placing in the King George (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. The difference this time, however, is that she finished farther back in third in her belated reappearance. The five-year-old will be making just her second start off the bench on Sunday, whereas the 2020 Flying Five marked her third race back.
Standing in her way is the newest sprint celebrity, three-year-old filly Winter Power, who blitzed the “Win and You’re In” Nunthorpe (G1) at York. Fellow sophomore Dragon Symbol, first-past-the-post but demoted to second in the Commonwealth Cup (G1), has since placed in the July Cup (G1), King George, and Nunthorpe. Rohaan was in better form earlier this season when edging Dragon Symbol in the Sandy Lane (G2) and defeating elders in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot.
Another three-year-old filly, Mooniesta, was last seen landing the July 17 Sapphire (G2) at this track and trip over Gustavus Weston, Romantic Proposal, and Measure of Magic. Gustavus Weston, the Greenlands (G2) winner, came back to beat A Case of You in the Aug. 8 Phoenix Sprint (G3).
Moyglare Stud (G1) – Race 4 (10:30 a.m. ET)
Agartha aims to put her experience to good use in the Moyglare Stud (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). After placing in four straight maidens, the Joseph O’Brien pupil broke through with a front-running upset of the Silver Flash (G3). Agartha repeated the feat in the Aug. 21 Debutante (G2) over this course and seven-furlong trip, holding sway over the maiden Sunset Shiraz, Discoveries (a full sister to European champion Alpha Centauri), and Concert Hall.
But Agartha must deal with a couple of good-looking stakes debutantes, including the last filly to topple her, Dermot Weld’s Homeless Songs. A Leopardstown debut victress, Homeless Songs is a homebred for the race’s namesake. Cairde Go Deo, from the hot yard of Ger Lyons, exits a course-and-distance romp in her second try. Rounding out the field are Prettiest, who was fourth to Agartha in the Silver Flash and most recently seventh versus the boys in the Phoenix (G1), and Jim Bolger’s longshot Missing Matron.
Vincent O’Brien National (G1) – Race 5 (11:05 a.m. ET)
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Point Lonsdale puts his 4-for-4 mark on the line in the signature race for two-year-olds. The son of Australia is twice an imperious winner over course and distance, both on debut and in the Futurity (G2) in his latest. Also the hero of the Chesham S. at Royal Ascot over The Queen’s exciting Reach for the Moon, Point Lonsdale has handled going left-handed in Leopardstown’s Tyros (G3). With his tactical speed and ground adaptability, he appears the total package.
Charlie Appleby has poached this prize from Ballydoyle’s grasp twice before, and the Godolphin trainer relies on unbeaten Native Trail for a hat trick. The impressive Sandown maiden winner followed up in the Superlative (G2) at Newmarket’s July Festival, the same stepping stone used by Quorto on the way here in 2018.
Fellow British shipper Ebro River has already plundered one Curragh major, the Phoenix, employing a new forward style. The Hugo Palmer colt faces stiffer competition, though, while stretching that speed over an extra furlong. Great Max, third in the Chesham and fifth in the Superlative, has since placed a distant second to Reach for the Moon in the Solario (G3).
Backing up the home defense in addition to Point Lonsdale are Duke de Sessa, a commanding maiden winner for Weld; Joseph O’Brien’s Ultramarine, still a maiden but acquitting himself creditably; and recent Dundalk debut scorer Anatoli.
Blandford (G2) – Race 2 (9:20 a.m. ET)
Love, the star attraction in the day’s first Group race, reverts to female company for the first time since her all-conquering sophomore campaign of 2020. After sweeping last season’s 1000 Guineas (G1), Oaks (G1), and Yorkshire Oaks (G1), the Ballydoyle runner returned with a gutsy victory in the June 16 Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot. That top effort in her comeback appears to have taken its toll in her next two versus males, for Love was only third in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) and Juddmonte International (G1).
The Blandford (G2) will determine if Love is back to her best. Her chief rival, Thundering Nights, captured the Pretty Polly (G1) at this course and 1 1/4-mile distance over Santa Barbara, Cayenne Pepper (the reigning Blandford winner), Insinuendo, and Oodnadatta. Note that Oodnadatta, later fourth versus males in the course-and-distance Royal Whip (G3) and third in the Snow Fairy Fillies’ S. (G3), adds cheekpieces here. Entering on an upward curve is sophomore filly La Petite Coco, who dominated the Give Thanks (G3) last out.
Irish St. Leger (G1) – Race 6 (11:40 a.m. ET)
If two-time defending champion Search for a Song can achieve a three-peat in the 1 3/4-mile test, she would emulate another Weld legend, Vinnie Roe. Unraced since a fifth in the May 23 Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1), she must overcome Johnny Murtagh’s Ebor H. hero Sonnyboyliston as well as an O’Brien onslaught.
Joseph O’Brien is triple-handed with Melbourne Cup (G1) winner Twilight Payment, successful in his warm-up in the Irish St. Leger Trial (G3); the progressive Baron Samedi, who capped a seven-race winning streak in the Belmont Gold Cup (G2) prior to a creditable fifth back down in trip for the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1); and Master of Reality, exiting a listed score at Down Royal.
Aidan O’Brien fields a quartet led by Amhran Na Bhfiann, a runaway winner of the Curragh Cup (G2) before disappointing in his last pair; the filly Passion, fifth in last year’s edition as a three-year-old; and current sophomores King of the Castle and Carlisle Bay.
Not to be overlooked is Donnacha O’Brien’s hope, Emperor of the Sun. After beating Search for a Song in the May 14 Levmoss S., he checked in a respectable fifth in the Gold Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot, and could improve again from his prep third in the Irish St. Leger Trial.
Jessica Harrington has two chances with Barbados, fourth in last year’s running and potentially cycling back into form, and Trial fourth Barrington Court, an ex-hurdler who placed to the likes of Dawn Patrol and Princess Zoe last campaign.