White Birch poised for return to action at Leopardstown

Derby third White Birch is set to return to the track at Leopardstown during the Irish Champions Festival following a mid-season break.

Trained by John Murphy, the colt acquitted himself with real credit in the first half of the season and it was at Leopardstown where he won the Ballysax Stakes on his seasonal bow before podium finishes in both the Dante and the Derby at Epsom.

The only blot in the son of Ulysses’ copybook came when misfiring at the Curragh in the Irish Derby prior to his break, but he is now reported to be in rude health ahead of his impending return to the track.

He holds entries in Leopardstown’s Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix Niel at ParisLongchamp, but connections are favouring the Group Three Paddy Power Stakes at the Dublin track for White Birch’s comeback outing.

“He’s in super shape and he’s had a couple of weeks of a break,” said George Murphy, assistant trainer to his father.

“We’re just building him up slowly to run probably next weekend. He’s in the Champion Stakes, the Kilternan Stakes (Paddy Power Stakes) and the Prix Niel in France.

“There’s no concrete plan which we will go for next, but he will run in one of those races.

“I think at the moment it is likely we will go to the Kilternan Stakes.”

White Birch has plied his trade at the highest level in his most recent outings, contesting Classics on both sides of the Irish sea.

However, he will be dropping back to Group Three company if contesting the Paddy Power Stakes, with Murphy explaining it is the mile-and-a-half distance that is the biggest determining factor when selecting the horse’s next target.

He added: “There is going to be nothing easy about a race on Champions Weekend, but I think a mile and a half is his most suitable trip and it just happens to be a Group Three.

“That’s the race that suits him that weekend other than the Prix Niel in France which he also has the option of as well.”

White Birch’s appearances are set to be limited this autumn as his training team already have one eye on a four-year-old campaign.

However, there is the possibility the colt may take an enterprising trip to Germany before the end of the season for a crack at Munich’s Grosser Preis von Bayern in early November, a Group One contest won two years ago by Sir Mark Prescott’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Alpinista.

“He’s entered in the Grosser Preis von Bayern and there is the potential he may go there – that’s a bit later in the year,” said Murphy.

“There’s a couple of other races but we’re probably not going to over-race him in the autumn.

“He’s grown quite a lot and we’re kind of looking forward to next year with him really.

“There’s a nice programme throughout the year for older horses and he’s shown throughout this year he is more than happy to travel. He should have a big future next year, please God.”

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