Irish Champion Stakes: get the takeaway as Magical thwarts Ghaiyyath in an epic

By Nicholas Godfrey

So you know Magical completed back-to-back successes the Irish Champion Stakes after a tremendous duel with Ghaiyyath at Leopardstown on Saturday. You’ve probably seen the race – but here’s some other stuff you might like to know.

What’s going on?

Magical: choice of Longchamp targets

Magical has finished tenth and fifth in the last two runnings of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and bookmakers cut her price for the ParisLongchamp showpiece to anything between 8-1 and 12-1.

However, the Coolmore team also have the Arc favourite, and the G1 Prix de l’Opera is an alternative option, according to Aidan O’Brien.

“She has the choice of the Arc or the fillies’ race on the same day,” he said. “It will depend on what the lads want to do with Love. The Breeders’ Cup could also suit her really well.”

Ladbrokes make her 7-1 for the Breeders’ Cup Turf and 7-2 for the Filly & Mare Turf.

Arc betting (Ladbrokes): 15-8 Love, 5-2 Enable, 6 Ghaiyyath, 10 Raabihah, 12 Serpentine, Magical, 14 Stradivarius, 16 Fancy Blue, 20 bar.

Horse Racing Irish Champion Stakes Magical Ghaiyyath
Magical (Seamie Heffernan) beats Ghaiyyath in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. Photo: Horse Racing Ireland

Short break for Ghaiyyath

Although Ghaiyyath is still in betting lists for the Arc after his three-quarter-length defeat, the Qipco Champion Stakes looks a more probable target. 

He remains favourite all round for the Ascot contest – but trainer Charlie Appleby did not divulge Godolphin’s intentions.

“Ghaiyyath will have a short break now before we decide on our next target,” he said on the team’s website. “We will make a call over the coming weeks and discuss everything before confirming where to go next with him.”

Champion Stakes betting (Coral): 15-8 Ghaiyyath, 11-4 Mishriff, 5 Enable, Love, 6 Magical, 8 Persian King, 9 Lord North, 10 Logician, 12 Addeybb, Fancy Blue, Japan, 14 bar

Seamie Heffernan: ‘I was always the winner’

Ballydoyle veteran Seamie Heffernan was landing the Irish Champion Stakes for the third time after Cape Blanco (2010) and So You Think (2011). “It’s a massive thrill,” he said.

Magical sat on Ghaiyyath’s flank throughout before outpointing the giant-striding Godolphin superstar in the final furlong. “I felt I was the winner every step of the way once I landed on his girth,” said Heffernan, 48. “He knew we were there today and he knew we meant business.”

When it’s worth postponing paddocks duty

Magical was initially retired after a setback kept her out of last year’s Breeders’ Cup, only for the Coolmore team to reverse the decision – since when she has added three more G1 wins to her already impressive CV. The formidable five-year-old has won seven G1s altogether.

 “The lads made the call and all credit to them for doing it,” said O’Brien. “She was booked to go to No Nay Never and we were just so delighted that they decided to give her another go. They said that hopefully No Nay Never will be there next year and hopefully she will be as well. She’s an amazing mare.”

For the record: two for Magical, nine for Aidan

Magical is only the second horse to win the Irish Champion Stakes twice, emulating another Aidan O’Brien-trained star in Dylan Thomas, who won in 2006 and 2007.

With nine victories, O’Brien is the leading trainer in the history of Irealnd’s most prestigious race, established in 1976 as the Joe McGrath Memorial. O’Brien’s winners are: Giant’s Causeway (2000), High Chaparral (2003), Oratorio (2005), Dylan Thomas (2006, 2007), Cape Blanco (2010), So You Think (2011), Magical (2019, 2020).

Breeders’ Cup Mile beckons after Murtagh’s Champers moment

Five-time Irish champion Johnny Murtagh rode 103 G1 winners during a fantastic career as a jockey. He got his first as a trainer when Champers Elysees unleashed a brilliant turn of foot under Colin Keane to beat Classic winners Peaceful and Fancy Blue in the Matron Stakes, the highlight on Saturday’s undercard.

Murtagh, who retired from the saddle in 2014, mentioned the Sun Chariot Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Mile as targets for the three-year-old filly.

Champers Elysees after becoming Johnny Murtagh’s first G1 winner as a trainer under Colin Keane in Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. Photo: HRI

Cadillac motors to 2,000 Guineas favouritism

Earlier on the card at Leopardstown, Cadillac was promoted to co-favourite for the 2021 Qipco 2,000 Guineas after pulling clear in eyecatching fashion to claim the G2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes for trainer Jessica Harrington. He was cut to 8-1 (from 20) for the Newmarket Classic by Ladbrokes and Coral.

The Leopardstown contest is a ‘Win and You’re In’ race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and Harrington suggested the race was on the agenda for Cadillac.

2021 2,000 Guineas betting (Coral): 8 Battleground, Cadillac, Master Of The Seas, 12 Chindit, 16 Lucky Vega, 20 Hudson River, Minzaal, Tactical.

Shall we talk about it?

Aidan O’Brien (Magical’s trainer): “We think she gets a mile and a quarter really strongly and you probably have to ride her to get a mile and a half. They are the things we’ve learned over the years and she’s very classy over a mile and a half, but can dish it out with anyone over a mile and a quarter.
“What she wants is always to eyeball a horse in battle. Seamie was happy to make the running today if William wanted to get a lead and if William was going to go, Seamie was going to go with him and keep her interested. It was a brilliant ride and she’s a serious mare. It’s really when you get into a battle with her, you see what she can do.
“She’s a great mare and all credit to the lads for keeping her in training. She’s an incredible mare – she’s tough, genuine, determined, has speed – she has everything. I’m over the moon and Seamie gave her a brilliant ride.”

Seamie Heffernan (Magical’s jockey): “She’s a very, very good mare and the horse she beat is a very, very good horse. It rode like a really good race and they toughed it out. We had the swords up from a long way out but she’s a super filly.
“I’m a big believer that if you’re running a horse over the right trip, you should jump out and lie up their neck like they do in America. Tactics can often lead to false readings and stories but when there’s pace on, the best genuine horses will fight it out and that’s what happened today.
“Some horses can disappoint you – they’re champions in the morning and then they don’t show on raceday. But this filly has probably never given everything and she’s won seven Group 1s ! She’s very sound and she’s the same every day, she’s very straightforward. She’s big and honest.”

Charlie Appleby (Ghaiyyath’s trainer): “I talked to William Buick afterwards, who said that it rode like a decent race and they have gone a good gallop. Turning in, Ghaiyyath was there with every chance but full credit to Magical, who is a multiple G1 winner. They have produced another good duel up the straight but she has come out on top this time.”

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• Visit the Longines Irish Champions Weekend website and the Leopardstown website

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