Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh

Sep 09, 2017

Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh

Leading stayer Twilight Payment and unexposed two-year-old Active Approach step up to G1 level on day two of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh this Sunday, September 10.

Both horses are trained by Jim Bolger and ridden by Kevin Manning, with Twilight Payment lining up in the Irish St Leger after coming home third in the G3 Trial for the 14-furlong contest, run over the same course and distance on August 19.

The four-year-old Teofilo colt, a Listed winner over two miles at the Curragh last year, has made the frame on all five of his appearances so far this year, including when finishing second behind Order Of St George in the 14-furlong Listed Saval Beg Stakes at Leapordstown in May.

He takes on nine others in the Irish St Leger, headed by the two most recent winners – Order Of St George and Wicklow Brave, plus G2 Yorkshire Cup scorer Dartmouth.

New Approach filly Active Approach steps up markedly in class in the seven-furlong G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes after finishing third in maidens on both her starts, most recently when keeping on behind subsequent G2 scorer Magical over a mile at Cork on August 8.

Her nine rivals include Magical, Newmarket G2 winner Clemmie and Royal Ascot runner-up Alpha Centurai.

Jimmy Hyland of Godolphin explained: “Twilight Payment has a bit to find with Order Of St George, but it was a good run to finish second to him in the Saval Beg Stakes earlier this season.

“He won a Listed race on heavy ground at the Curragh this time last year so softer conditions shouldn’t be an inconvenience. He has been training well and we are hoping that he can run a good race.

“Active Approach was third behind Magical and Mary Tudor on her latest start and both fillies went on to frank the form when finishing first and third in the G2 Debutante Stakes.

“The ground was good to yielding on Active Approach’s last run and similar conditions at the Curragh, together with the straight track, will suit her.

“We are hoping she can make the frame and gain some valuable black type.”

Last year's G1 Irish Champion Stakes was widely regarded as the best race to have taken place in Europe, and Jim Bolger believes it could be a similar scenario at Leopardstown 12 months later.

The Godolphin trainer, who again saddles Moonlight Magic, is of the opinion that Saturday's 10-runner field contains much the same strength in depth this year.

"It's hot enough, and it's probably as strong as when Almanzor won it last year," he added.

Bolger is expecting improvement from the magnificently-bred Moonlight Magic, winner of four races and placed another four times, from 13 starts.

The four-year-old was sixth home behind Almanzor in last year's running, but Bolger is upbeat in anticipation of a conspicuous turn-around in form from the Godolphin runner this time.

"If you're asking how he is going to improve from sixth last year, I say I am happier with him this year," Bolger said.

"I feel that he has improved. I don't think the ground comes into it. It could partially be maturity, but horses generally don't maintain the same level of form over years.

"He's well in himself. I'm happy with him," the trainer added.

Bolger believes that Eminent and Churchill will provide very strong opposition. "I have respect for them all. Churchill has the form. But Eminent has never run a bad race and must run very well," he added.

Leopardstown on Saturday and the Curragh on Sunday serve up two outstanding cards on what is billed as Ireland's feature weekend of racing. It promises cracking action, which clashes with the 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock on the first day, while three Arc 'trials' at Chantilly and the G1 Prix du Moulin go head-to-head with the G1 Irish St Leger and G1 Vincent O'Brien National Stakes on the second day.

Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby is hopeful that a return to one mile will suit talented three-year-old Wuheida when she tackles older horses in the G1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.

"She was obviously stretched when third, running over a mile and three furlongs, in the G1 German Oaks last time.

"But she's come out of that well. She looks great, she's done everything right, and the ground is fine for her. She comes back in trip, but based on her second in he G1 Falmouth Stakes, that should suit," the trainer added.

Winter, the winner of her last four starts, is a three-year-old filly with the capacity to make her mark outside her own gender category.