Weld opts for Irish Champion with Harzand

US Army Ranger (left) misses Curragh rematch with Harzand (right)

Harzand: Dual derby winner will stay in Ireland this weekend

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

 By Tony O’Hehir 2:15PM 7 SEP 2016 

HARZAND is set to line up in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday with ground conditions looking favourable for the dual Derby winner.

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Dermot Weld has scratched Harzand from Sunday’s Prix Niel, which had been an alternative for the Aga Khan’s star colt had the surface at Leopardstown been unsuitable.

The trainer said  “The going at Leopardstown and the weather forecast suggest the ground will be safe and the plan is for Harzand and Fascinating Rock to run in the Irish Champion Stakes. Both horses are well and  we’ll make a final decision before declaration time.”

Ground forecast to ease at Leopardstown

Harzand was on Wednesday a top-priced 3-1 chance behind Minding for the Group 1 test at Leopardstown where outbreaks of rain were forecast for Wednesday night and again on Thursday evening,

Clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer said on Wednesday: “I was in Leopardstown this morning and I’d describe the ground on the outside track as being on the easy side of good. The inside track is drier but still good.

“We could get between between three and five millimetres of rain tonight and the forecast is for more rain late on Friday evening. It’s hard to know how much we’ll get but if the forecast proves accurate I’d expect the ground on the outside track to ride on the easy side of good on Saturday.

“The team at Leopardstown have done a fantastic job. It’s beautiful ground – like a carpet.”

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Weld has yet to train a winner of the Irish Champion Stakes while Pat Smullen, who rides Harzand, will also be seeking a first win in the event. Frankie Dettori, however, has landed the prize six times, most recently when scoring on Golden Horn a year ago.

Weld said: “Frankie has ridden for me in the past and I remember him just missing out on a Royal Ascot winner for us when Steaming Home was beaten a neck in the Windsor Castle Stakes [in 2001].”

The ground at the Curragh, which stages three Group 1s on Sunday – the Irish St Leger,  the National Stakes and the Moyglare Stud Stakes – was changed from yielding to good to yielding on Wednesday.

The racecourse’s director of racing Paul Hensey said: “We changed the ground description early this morning and we’ve had a nice dry day. The ground is more good than yielding on the round course.

“The forecast is a bit unsettled and if there is to be any significant rain in will be some time on Friday. We’ve been told we could get somewhere between four and ten millimetres but that forecast could change, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

 
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