Magical gains revenge on Ghaiyyath to keep Irish Champion crown at Leopardstown

On a thrilling opening day to Irish Champions Weekend, Magical reversed Ebor Festival form with Ghaiyyath, the world’s highest rated Flat turf racehorse, in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

This likeable and tough mare retained her crown in the 1m 2f Group 1 contest for Aidan O’Brien. That victory extended the Ballydoyle maestro’s record in the Irish Champion Stakes to nine.

Unlike the Juddmonte International at York, Magical eyeballed British raider Ghaiyyath throughout. Paying closer attention to the Godolphin owned five-year-old really paid off.

Charlie Appleby’s charge was eventually overhauled by Magical despite the best efforts of William Buick in the saddle. She asserted over Ghiayyath for a three-quarters of a length victory.

Top O’Brien stable jockey Ryan Moore bizarrely chose Japan over Magical, so Seamie Heffernan took the ride. He was nowhere with Armory running a stormer at 66/1 in third when just holding French raider Sottsass who stayed on too late.

Champers Elysees helps Keane to Irish Champions Weekend double

Elsewhere on the Saturday of Irish Champions Weekend, jockey Colin Keane had two winners. The first came courtesy of progressive Johnny Murtagh filly Champers Elysees in the Group 1 Matron Stakes over a mile.

This was billed as a rematch between Classic winners Fancy Blue and Peaceful, but both were left chasing her home. Murtagh targeted Irish Champion Stakes day at Leopardstown with both Champer Elysees and Know It All who was fourth.

Defeat for two major favourites, Fancy Blue and Ghaiyyath, cost punters who had multiples rolling on. Keane also piloted Safe Voyage to a second Group 2 success in the Boomerang Mile.

John Quinn’s charge had ran out an impressive winner of the 7f City Of York Stakes during the Ebor Festival last time out. Safe Voyage showed real guts when headed to get back up and deny 14/1 shot Sinawan.

Irish Derby second Tiger Moth did justify bookmaker favouritism, however, when dropped in grade to Group 3 level. He ran out an impressive winner on a day when Jessica Harrington took the Group 2 Champions Juvenile Stakes with Cadillac.

Analysis: Magical performance gets Ghaiyyath in Irish Champion Stakes

Jamie Clark, Horsebetting.com Editor

As tough as Magical is, this is an upset. On York form, it was hard to see her winning and yet she did. Deserted by Ryan Moore, who looked foolish riding Japan instead, Heffernan got the tactics spot on.

That is how to get at Ghiayyath. Don’t let him have it all his own way. Nobody can take the Group 1 hat-trick he notched over the summer away from him, but where now?

It’s the Arc or the Champion Stakes. He could meet Magical in both or either again. That sets things up nicely with both holding a victory over the other this season now.

Magical, the heroine on home turf, earns a 6/1 quote with Betway for a successful defence of her British Champion Stakes crown at Ascot.

It would be better if her Coolmore connections waited for British Champions Day rather than run her on Arc weekend. Magical has had cracks at Europe’s most valuable race before and not really been involved. The lads also have other options.

Elsewhere, it was satisfying to tip up an Irish Champions Weekend double. I did say in the preview that the Murtagh fillies could go well too.

This is a fantastic meeting and getting better every year. As with Doncaster and its aborted crowd trial, it was a shame that Irish Champions Weekend was behind closed doors.

Tiger Moth clearly looked a cut above Group 3 company and, after four four career starts, could still be getting better. Irish Champions Weekend isn’t done either.

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