Onesto back to go one better in Irish Champion Stakes

Fabrice Chappet is confident last year’s runner-up Onesto will put up another bold show when he takes on the likes of King Of Steel and Auguste Rodin in Saturday’s Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes.

The French raider found only Luxembourg too strong in a high-class renewal 12 months ago and the pair are among nine runners declared for the latest edition of the Leopardstown showpiece this weekend.

Luxembourg is one of three contenders for Aidan O’Brien as he goes in search of a fifth straight victory in the 10-furlong Group One, with his dual Derby-winning stablemate Auguste Rodin considered the stable’s first string despite failing to fire in the King George at Ascot in July.

Point Lonsdale also runs for the Ballydoyle team.

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Onesto has been a rare sight on the racecourse this season, but Chappet was happy with his reappearance when fourth over a mile in the Prix Jacques le Marois and is optimistic ahead of his return to Dublin, where he will be partnered by Frankie Dettori.

“One place better than last year will do,” quipped Chappet.

“He has never run a bad race, he has been unlucky a few times, but he rarely runs a bad race. So I expect a good run one more time.

“He had a little issue in the spring, but the best races for him are coming up now anyway. He is a very versatile horse, he is a Group One winner going 2400 metres (Grand Prix de Paris) and ran a very good race in this last year going 2000 metres and also ran a good race down in trip in the Jacques le Marois.

“He definitely has more speed than a mile and a half horse and he can probably do anything from a mile to middle distances – he showed a good bit of speed last time.”

Royal Ascot winner King Of Steel is favourite for the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes
Royal Ascot winner King Of Steel is the possible favourite for the Irish Champion Stakes (David Davies/PA)

Some bookmakers have Roger Varian’s King Of Steel, who drops back in trip after some fine efforts at a mile and a half this season, at the head of their betting.

A victory in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot sandwiches placed efforts in both the Derby and in the King George and connections believe they are in the right place to hunt an elusive Group One victory for the son of Wootton Bassett.

“The ground will be on the quick side of good which wouldn’t concern us overly based on his runs at Epsom and Royal Ascot,” said Tom Pennington, racing and operations manager for owners Amo Racing.

“Auguste Rodin is on the comeback trail, Nashwa has obviously been a model of consistency this season and I thought Joseph O’Brien’s horse Al Riffa ran a very nice race in France.

“There is no such thing as an easy Group One but hopefully our patience will be rewarded. We’ve looked after him this year and Roger has been very patient and we’re excited.”

Owen Burrows’ progressive four-year-old Alflaila arrives bidding to extend a four-race winning run having been supplemented for the race earlier in the week and will look to give owners Shadwell yet another big-race success this term.

John and Thady Gosden are represented by Nashwa, who was last seen finishing best of the rest behind stablemate Mostahdaf in York’s Juddmonte International, while Joseph O’Brien’s Al Riffa has finished second in both starts this term, but was a big-race scorer during the Irish Champions Festival in 2022.

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The field is completed by the Jessica Harrington-trained Sprewell, who won the Derby Trial over the course and distance before finishing fourth and sixth in the Derby and Irish Derby respectively.

Irish 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes heroine Tahiyra is the star attraction among 13 fillies set to go to post for the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes.

Tahiyra winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot
Tahiyra winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot (David Davies/PA)

Trainer Dermot Weld also saddles high-class older filly Homeless Songs, who is one of two hopefuls for Moyglare Stud Farm along with Paddy Twomey’s Just Beautiful.

Aidan O’Brien relies upon Meditate, Zarinsk bids for a third straight win for Ger Lyons and Ralph Beckett’s Prosperous Voyage, Tom Clover’s Rogue Millennium and Olivia Maralda from Varian’s yard all travel from Britain for the Group One contest.

Impressive Curragh scorer Diego Velazquez is a hot favourite for KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes as one of three runners for Aidan O’Brien alongside Capulet and Democracy. His oldest son Joseph runs the supplemented Atlantic Coast and Bad Desire, while his younger son Donnacha saddles Bremen.

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