Updated on 09/16/2011 8:11AM

Hawk Wing, Grandera top Irish Champion


Hawk Wing is the horse to beat in Saturday's Irish Champion Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile Group 1 contest at Leopardstown that will have an enormous impact on the balance of this autumn's international racing season.

A 3-year-old Woodman colt, Hawk Wing is one of three horses entered by Aidan O'Brien in the $1.09 million event, although O'Brien's Epsom and Irish Derby winner, High Chaparral, will almost certainly be held out in favor of an Arc de Triomphe prep in the Prix Niel next Sunday at Longchamp.

Runner-up in both the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby, Hawk Wing landed the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes at the Irish Champion distance last time on July 6, defeating stablemate Sholokhov by 2 1/2 lengths. Sholokhov is back again Saturday at Leopardstown, but there are far greater dangers waiting in the wings.

Grandera, just fifth for Godolphin in Golan's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, was a most impressive five-length winner of the 1 1 /4-mile Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot and will enjoy the cut back to 10 furlongs, especially as the ground is expected to be good to firm.

The going, however, may work against the plans of two fillies entered. All three of Rebelline's victories this year, including her last against colts on May 26 in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, have come on soft ground. The Irish Oaks winner Margarula may not run if the ground doesn't soften up.

Godolphin's second string, Best of the Bests, could be considered a threat on the form of his Prix d'Ispahan victory over Banks Hill, but Frankie Dettori has opted to ride Grandera instead. Common World and No Excuse Needed are deserving longshots.

Sophisticat has been supplemented by O'Brien to the one-mile Matron Stakes on the same card. The Coronation Stakes winner, Sophisticat should have few problems against older fillies in this drop down from Group 1 to Group 3 company.

* In the six-furlong Group 1 Haydock Park Sprint Cup on Saturday, Group 1 sprint winners Continent and Malhub face off against Landseer, the O'Brien-trained winner of the French 2000 Guineas. The preference, however, is for the Mark Prescott-trained Danehurst, who will be running back on just six days' rest after a sharp score in the Group 2 Flying Five.