Harzand could provide his trainer and rider with a first win in the race
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Tony O’Hehir 9:23AM 10 SEP 2016
FOR all their big-race successes at home and further afield, Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen have yet to crack the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes and the duo will be hoping to put that right when dual Derby winner Harzand faces 12 rivals in a strong and deep renewal of the 1m2f Leopardstown event on Saturday.
Harzand was last seen in action at the Curragh in June when he followed up his Investec Derby win by completing a Classic double in the Irish version.
Unbeaten in four starts this year, the son of Sea The Stars won the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes over Saturday’s course and distance in April but dropping to that trip will present the Aga Khan-owned colt with a more demanding test this time.
The Aga Khan’s colours have twice been carried to success in the race, by Azamour in 2004 and by Timarida 20 years ago.
Harzand, who is being aimed at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe next month, will be attempting to become the first horse to add the Irish Champion Stakes to Derby victories at Epsom and the Curragh in the same season.
His claims received a boost overnight with 4mm of rain falling at Leopardstown, causing the going on the outer course to ease to yielding, good to yielding in places.
The inner course, meanwhile, is good, good to yielding in places.
‘All set to run a very good race’
Speaking on Friday, Weld said: “Harzand had a good break after the Irish Derby. His preparation for the race has gone well and we’re happy with him.
“He’s all set to run a very good race on ground which should suit.”
Weld also runs Ebediyin, who made much of the running when last behind Harzand in the Irish Derby and who could play a similar role on this occasion.