Alflaila handed Group One chance in Irish Champion

Alflaila is set for his first shot at Group One glory at Leopardstown on Saturday after being supplemented for the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes.

Having won a Listed prize at Pontefract and Group Threes at York and Newmarket last season, the Owen Burrows-trained colt made a triumphant return from nine months on the sidelines when powering home to lift the Group Two York Stakes in July.

The four-year-old had the option of returning to the Knavesmire for last month’s Juddmonte International, but owners Shadwell already had a leading contender for that prestigious contest in the eventual winner Mostahdaf and decided to split their aces.

Alflaila has therefore been added to the feature event on day one of the Irish Champions Festival at a cost of €75,000, and his connections are relishing the challenge.

“The other choice was the Juddmonte International, but we were lucky enough to have Mostahdaf there and we chose not to run the two of them against each other,” said Shadwell’s racing manager Angus Gold.

“Alflaila wasn’t in the Irish Champion initially because he obviously had a little injury at the end of last year and we hadn’t seen him back on the track when the entries were made, but it now makes sense to have a go at this.

“It’s a very high-class race, as you would expect, but we’ll have a go and see what happens.”

While Alflaila’s ticket is booked, Mostahdaf will not be making the trip across the Irish Sea after being taken out of the 10-furlong showpiece at Tuesday’s forfeit stage.

Gold added: “To be honest I don’t think Mostahdaf was ever really going to come here. Straight after the race at York it was an obvious one to mention, but realistically we said we’d give him a bit of time between his races and we’d love to go to Ascot for the Champion Stakes.

“It is unlikely he’ll run there if the weather has turned by then, so let’s hope we get a dry autumn, otherwise it will probably be the Breeders’ Cup (Turf).”

Alflaila is one of 13 horses still in contention for the Irish Champion Stakes, with John and Thady Gosden’s Nashwa – runner-up to stablemate Mostahdaf at York – another intended British challenger.

Roger Varian’s King Of Steel is a leading hope off the back of his third in the King George, while Sir Michael Stoute could saddle Bay Bridge and William Haggas could send My Prospero.

Aidan O’Brien has whittled his team down to four, with last year’s winner Luxembourg and dual Derby hero Auguste Rodin joined by Broome and Point Lonsdale.

French raider Onesto (Fabrice Chappet), Al Riffa (Joseph O’Brien), Sprewell (Jessica Harrington) and White Birch (John Murphy) are the other hopefuls.

The other Group One on the card is the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes, in which Dermot Weld appears to have a particularly strong hand.

The master of Rosewell House could give Homeless Songs her first run since April in the one-mile contest and she could be joined by Tahiyra, who emulated her stablemate by winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas in May before following up in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Above The Curve (Joseph O’Brien) and Just Beautiful (Paddy Twomey) are also among 21 possibles.

The O’Brien family dominate the entries for the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes, with Joseph interestingly supplementing impressive Curragh maiden winner Atlantic Coast.

Frankel colt Diego Velazquez and course and distance winner Chief Little Rock are two of six contenders for O’Brien senior.

Fourteen horses are in the mix for the €200,000 Dullingham Park Stakes, formerly known as the Boomerang Mile, while the Haggas-trained Al Aasy heads 13 entries for the Paddy Power Stakes.

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