09/11/2014 2:43PM

Australia to be short price in Irish Champion Stakes


Australia will be an odds-on favorite to add another Group 1 win to his r é sum é when he starts Saturday at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Stakes.

The Irish Champion is one of two Group 1 races on the day, along with the Matron for older fillies and mares, and is one of three Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In races on the card. The Irish Champion winner earns automatic entry and travel expenses to the BC Turf, the Matron winner to the BC Filly and Mare Turf, and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial winner to, obviously, the BC Juvenile Turf.

Australia has captured three straight Group 1 races after taking a surprising loss in the English 2000 Guineas to start his 3-year-old campaign. He rebounded to easily win the English Derby and the Irish Derby, and in his first try against older horses, Australia cruised to a two-length victory Aug. 20 in the Juddmonte International at York.

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Australia, a son of Galileo owned by the Coolmore group and trained by Aidan O’Brien, is 2 for 2 at 1 1/2 miles but is at least as good at the Irish Champion’s 1 1/4 miles. The good-to-firm going forecast for Saturday’s races at Leopardstown, which sits about five miles south of central Dublin, suits the colt, and O’Brien has owned the Irish Champion since coming into his prime, having won the race seven times in the last 14 years.

The O’Brien-trained Kingfisher is a pacemaker for his ballyhooed stablemate, and there is a second rabbit in the race, Alkasser, who is in to assure a true running for Mukhadram. Mukhadram had a less-than-ideal journey while finishing fourth behind Australia in the International and won the Group 1 Eclipse earlier this year. He is a decent bounce-back candidate Saturday but might not be Australia’s match even at his best.

The Grey Gatsby, another 3-year-old, was second in the International and won the French Derby earlier in the year, and he gets the services Saturday of jockey Ryan Moore. Also in the race is Al Kazeem, a top older horse of 2013 who is edging his way back to peak form this season after proving unsuitable for stallion duty last winter. Rounding out the field is 2013 Irish Derby winner Trading Leather.

The Irish Champion is the seventh race on the card, with post time scheduled for 1:50 p.m. Eastern.

The Group 1 Matron is the fifth race on the program, and O’Brien has the favorite here, too, in Tapestry. A 3-year-old filly meeting older rivals for the first time, Tapestry comes off an upset victory over the highly rated Taghrooda in the Yorkshire Oaks. That race was contested at 1 1/2 miles, and Tapestry is taking a major cut in distance by racing one mile Saturday. The distance alone might favor Rizeena, who won the Group 1 Coronation Stakes over one mile earlier this year and most recently finished fifth behind Europe’s top miler, Kingman, in the Aug. 17 Jacque le Marois at Deauville.

Finally, the Juvenile Turf Trial over one mile drew a field of seven, including a pair from the O’Brien barn, East India and John F. Kennedy.

English St. Leger at Doncaster

The last and oldest of the European classic races, the English St. Leger, also is scheduled for Saturday, though the long-distance test at Doncaster could lose its favorite, Kingston Hill, unless there is an unexpected change in course conditions.

The St. Leger, run over about 18 1/2 furlongs and dating to 1776, drew 14 runners, including Kingston Hill, who was second to Australia in the English Derby. Fourth against older foes in the Eclipse Stakes on July 5, Kingston Hill twice has been withdrawn from intended starts by trainer Roger Varian this summer owing to firm going. The turf at Doncaster was good-to-soft Thursday but drying steadily, and Varian said Kingston Hill could be scratched.

It might not matter, as Kingston Hill is no cinch to stay the distance. Trainer John Gosden has won the race in three of the last seven years and has two horses Saturday, Marzocco and Romsdale. Romsdale flopped in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on July 26 but could well rebound in his first start since.