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Two big chances as Sheikh Hamdan eyes Irish Champion again

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Owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum has two live contenders in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown - where Elarqam and Madhmoon will sport his famous blue and white silks.

Not since John Gosden's Muhtarram provided him with a second win in the race in 1993 have the colours been carried to success in Saturday's race.

In Derby runner-up Madhmoon and the supplemented Elarqam, who was third in the Juddmonte International at York, he has two realistic chances.

His racing manager Angus Gold said: "We obviously already had one legitimate contender for the race in Madhmoon, but Sheikh Hamdan and (trainer) Mark (Johnston) both felt it would be a long time between races if we waited for the English Champion with Elarqam, and who knows what could happen between now and then?

"I was very impressed with Elarqam at York, and if we'd ridden him a bit handier I don't think he would have been far away.

"The front two quickened away - he was a bit further back than ideal and didn't get a clear run. I'm not saying he would have won but for that, but he could have gone pretty close if things had been different.

"(Trainer) Kevin (Prendergast) is very happy with Madhmoon, and this is the obvious race for him. I personally think a mile and a quarter will end up being his best trip, but I know (jockey) Chris Hayes feels he could even end up back at a mile.

"I think it's very hard to pick between the two of them. I think Madhmoon might have more speed than Elarqam, and is possibly the quicker horse - but whether he's a better horse or not, it's hard to say."

Veteran trainer Prendergast is seeking his first win in the race and told irishchampionsweekend.ie: "I couldn't be happier with the shape he is in. As for his ideal trip, with his form in the Classics this year, it would be hard to say - but certainly 10 furlongs won't be a problem.

"The race the last day served its purpose. It was good to see him drop back to a mile and show the pace to win over that trip. I don't think tactics will matter either."

Aidan O'Brien has four runners, including Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck, but the filly Magical appears to have a more consistent profile - she just unfortunately keeps bumping into Enable.

"We've been very happy with Magical since she ran at York," said O'Brien.

"The plan was always to go to York, then go to the Irish Champion - and if all goes well, then go to the Arc. We have been very happy with her since, and she came out the race very well.

"Anthony Van Dyck is in good order. His last run was a non-event, because they probably went a bit quick and the ground was a bit soft."

Hunting Horn and Magic Wand also represent Ballydoyle.

Roger Charlton's Headman has been improving at a rate of knots and has won two Group Twos in France this summer.

"It is a big jump up in class, but I've been pleased with the horse," said Charlton.

"It is really the only race to run in, because there are no more three-year-old-only races - and having won two Group Twos, there is no point giving weight away in another Group Two.

"I don't think either of the French races suited him. I think the course and the style of the race will suit him better, and I think a quicker surface is what he wants.

"I assume there will also be a better pace, and they won't go like they did in France last time out. He is a long-striding horse, and you don't want to be breaking that stride.

"I think this horse is one for the future, and I'm sure he will keep improving. I think he will be better next year."

Adding further spice to the race is the Japanese contender Deirdre, who will be ridden by Oisin Murphy - just as she was to win the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.

"I sat on her on Tuesday, and she felt super, but it's a very very good race," said Murphy.

"I think Magical looks the one to beat, no doubt, but she goes there with a good chance.

"At Goodwood she was back to her best, after she'd run disappointingly on her British debut at Ascot - so we'll see what she's made of."

 

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1st Ben Curtis silk 6. ENCAPSULATION (IRE) 9/25.5
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1st Ryan Moore silk 6. SUMMER MOON 9/43.25
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2nd Jack Garritty silk sh 4. ANNA BUNINA (FR) 11/26.5
3rd Rossa Ryan silk ¾ 2. GLASSES UP (USA) 15/82.87f
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T: Tim Easterby  
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1st David Egan silk 9. BARDO CONTIGUO (IRE) 6/17cf
2nd Jason Hart silk hd 4. ASCOT WEEK (USA) 14/115
3rd Harrison Shaw silk ½ 14. CHINESE SPIRIT (IRE) 14/115
J: David Egan  
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2nd Andrea Atzeni silk 3. ESPRIT ROSE (IRE) 13/82.62f
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1st Franny Norton silk 5. HAMMER GUN (USA) 11/82.37f
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