Irish Champion Stakes Day: Race List & Meeting Info

The Irish Champions Weekend is made up of two racedays in early September. The first day, on the Saturday, is this fixture, the Irish Champion Stakes Day at Leopardstown. Day Two takes place at the Curragh and is the Irish St Leger Day.

The headline act on Saturday is the Irish Champion Stakes, a 1m2f event which has been won by some of the real legends of the game over the years, including super sire Sadler’s Wells in 1984 and the brilliant Golden Horn in 2015.

Of the eight races this day, six are Group races. The Champion Stakes and Matron Stakes are Group 1s, the Champions Juvenile Stakes and the Solonoway Stakes are Group 2s, and the Kilternan Stakes is a Group 3. The other races are the Listed Ingabelle Stakes and two valuable handicaps.

 

Irish Champions Stakes Day

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Irish EBF Ingabelle Stakes Listed 7f €59,999 2YO only
Irish EBF 'Petingo' Handicap   1m 4f 180y €75,000 3YO plus
Matron Stakes Group 1 1m €150,000 3YO plus
Champions Juvenile Stakes Group 2 1m €75,000 2YO only
Irish Champion Stakes Group 1 1m 2f €435,000 3YO plus
Solonoway Stakes Group 2 1m €90,000 3YO plus
Kilternan Stakes Group 3 1m 4f €59,999 3YO plus
Irish EBF 'Sovereign Path' Handicap   7f €75,000 3YO plus

Irish EBF Ingabelle Stakes

Class 1, 7f

The Ingabelle Stakes is a Listed race that is run in association with Ballyinch Studs and the Irish European Breeders Fund. Taking place over seven furlongs, it is open to horses aged two and boasts price money for the winning horses of €100,000. When the Going is Good, you can expect the race to last for about a minute and a half.

Irish EBF 'Petingo' Handicap

1m 4f 180y

The day’s second race is similar to the first, insomuch as it’s run in association with the European Breeders Fund. This time the difference comes in the fact that it’s the Irish Stallion Farms EBF that are involved with this Premier Handicap. It’s open to horses aged three and over and is run over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and one hundred and eighty yards.

Matron Stakes

Group 1, 1m

Formerly known as the Gilltown Stud Stakes and hosted the the Curragh, the race was a Group 3 offering for a while and took on its current moniker in the middle of the 1980s. It got transferred to Leopardstown in 2002 and was promoted to Group 2 the following year and then Group 1 the year after that.

The race is currently being sponsored by Coolmore Stud and the full title given to it includes one of their stallions, Fastnet Rock. The race became part of Irish Champions Weekend in 2014 and is run left-handed over one mile. It's for fillies and mares aged three and over, with a weight of nine stone for three-year-olds and nine stone five pounds for horses aged four and up.

Despite being for horses aged three over over, no horses has won it more than once since 1980 when records began to be kept on it. Johnny Murtagh is the Matron Stakes' most successful jockey with three wins to his name, whilst John Dunlop helps to keep the O'Brien name off the record books, unusually for an Irish flat race, by being the most successful trainer of the race thanks to four wins between 1982 and 2000.

Champions Juvenile Stakes

Group 2, 1m

A relatively, and appropriately, young race in comparison to others on the list, the Juvenile Stakes was inaugurated in 2007 and was known as the Golden Fleece Stakes, in recognition of Irish-trained winner of The Derby Golden Fleece. When it was first run it was competed over seven furlongs, held Listed status and was held in either late June or early July.

In 2012 the decision was taken to move the race to September and also extend to a mile, earning it billing as a decent preparatory race for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. In 2013 it was promoted to Group 3 and then in 2014 it became the Juvenile Turf Stakes and was moved to become part of the Irish Champion Weekend. Its transformation to the race that it current is was complete in 2015 when the word 'turf' was dropped from its title.

A Group 3 race that is run left-handed over one mile, it is limited to two-year-olds and has the following weight information:

  • Weight: 9 stone 3 pounds
  • Fillies receive an allowance of 3 pounds
  • Group 1 and Group 2 race winners are given a penalty of 5 pounds
  • Group 3 race winners are given a penalty of 3 pounds

As is the case with so many flat races, when it comes to looking for the most successful names you only have to pick an O'Brien and then decide which name should go in front of it. Between 2011 and 2015, for example, nobody but Joseph O'Brien was able to saddle a winner as jockey. Most of those horses were trained by Aidan O'Brien, who also added winners in 2010, 2017 and 2019 to ensure that he's the race's most successful trainer.

Irish Champion Stakes

Group 1, 1m 2f

Run left-handed over one mile and two furlongs, the Irish Champion Stakes is for horses aged three and over. It has the following weight information attached:

  • 3-year-olds: 9 stone 1 pound
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 7 pounds
  • Fillies and mares are given a 3 pound allowance

Established at Leopardstown in 1976, the race was originally called the Joe McGrath Memorial Stakes as it was named in honour of the man who founded the Irish Hospitals' Sweepstake, Joe McGrath. It was renamed as the Phoenix Champion Stakes when it was transferred to Phoenix Park Racecourse in 1984, but returned to Leopardstown in 1991 when Phoenix Park was closed.

It also took on its current moniker when it returned to Leopardstown, then in 2009 it became part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, with the race's winner getting an automatic place in the Breeders' Cup Turf later in the year. A number of horses have won both races in the same season, such as Fantastic Light in 2001 and High Chaparral in 2003. In 2015 Found, who had finished second in the Irish Champion Stakes, won the Breeders' Cup Turf.

The Breeders' Cup Turf isn't the only race in which Irish Champion Stakes winners have gone on to find success. Indeed it is seen by many as an important preparatory race for some of the major Autumn events. The likes of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the Champion Stakes and races at the Hong Kong International Festival are all seen as being winnable for horses that do well at Leopardstown in this race.

Obviously there's a temptation to draw a line between the Irish Champion Stakes and the Group 1 race run at Ascot during British Champions Day in October. That's understandable, too, given that to date six different horses have won both events in the same year. They are as follows:

  • Triptych in 1987
  • Indian Skimmer in 1988
  • Pilsudski in 1997
  • New Approach in 2008
  • Almanzor in 2016
  • Magical in 2019

Despite the race being open to horses aged three and over, only one has managed to win the race more than once. Dylan Thomas achieved it in 2006 and then again in 2007. There's been far more repeat success for jockeys over the years, with Lester Piggott, Kieren Fallon and Pat Eddery, amongst others, winning it more than once.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Frankie Dettori is the most successful jockey thanks to his six wins between 1998 and 2015, but in actual fact that honour hoes to Michael Kinane for seven wins between 1989 and 2009.

There have also been multiple wins for a number of trainers, with the likes of Saeed bin Suroor, Michael Stoute and John Oxx all taking to the winner's podium more than once, but it's the O'Brien family that claim the most wins. Aidan O'Brien has notched up eight victories as a trainer at the time of writing, with Vincent O'Brien having five of his own, including four in succession between 1978 and 1981 and then another in 1984.

Solonoway Stakes

Group 2, 1m

Currently known as the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes thanks to its sponsorship by Clipper Logistics, the Solonaway Stakes' official name is in honour of the 1949 winner of the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Run at the Curragh and contested over a mile during the latter part of the 1980s and the early 1990s, it was run as a Listed race for a time.

The race's distance was extended to a mile and a furlong in 1993 then went back to being a mile eight years later. It was upgraded to become a Group 3 race in 2007 and then shifted again to Group 2 in 2014. That was also the same year that it was transferred from the Curragh to Leopardstown in order to become part of Irish Champions Weekend.

Run left-handed over one mile, the race is open to horses aged three and over and has the following weight information attached:

  • 3-year-olds: 9 stone 3 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 8 pounds
  • Fillies and mares are given an allowance of 3 pounds
  • Group 1 race winners are given a penalty of 3 pounds

Since 1987 only one horse has won the race more than once, which was Jumbajukiba in 2007 and then again in 2008. Jockeys have been more consistent in winning it more than once, with Danny Tudhope, Fran Berry and Pat Smullen all winning the race twice apiece. Michael Kinane won it three times but it's Johnny Murtagh who sits at the top of the list for success as a jockey with four wins between 1991 and 2010.

There's not a massive surprise when it comes to the race's most successful trainer, with Aidan O'Brien sitting pretty with his six wins at the time of writing. He's not the only trainer to see horses he's trained be successful in the race more than once, however, with David O'Meara, Dermot Weld, Jessica Harrington, John Oxx, Kevin Prendergast, Richard Fahey and Roger Charlton all also able to make the claim.

Kilternan Stakes

Group 3, 1m 4f

Currently known as the Paddy Power Betting Shop Stakes because of sponsorship by the Irish bookmaker, the Kilternan Stakes is a Group 3 offering that is run left-handed over one mile and four furlongs. It is open to horses aged three and over, though Group 1 winners are not allowed to take part, and has the following weight information attached:

  • 3-year-olds: 9 stone 1 pound
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 9 pounds
  • Fillies and mares are given an allowance of 3 pounds
  • Group 2 race winners receive a penalty of 5 pounds
  • Group 3 race winners receive a penalty of 3 pounds

A race called the Trigo Stakes was moved to be part of the course's Irish Champion Stakes meeting in 1999 but was returned to late October, which was its original month of running, the following year and was replaced by the Foxrock Stakes, which was similar in nature. This race was retitled as the Kilternan Stakes in 2001 in honour of the village of the same name that is located close to the racecourse.

Classed as a Listed race until it was promoted to Group 3 in 2006, the race was sponsored by KPMG until Paddy Power took over the responsibility in 2018. Four years earlier it became part of Irish Champions Weekend, when the distance was increased from one mile and two furlongs to its current length. Though it is for horses aged three and up, it is yet to be won by the same horse more than once. This is likely due to the exclusion of Group 1 race winners from the lineup.

Whilst it has only been running since 2001, it has been won more than once by the same jockey. Johnny Murtagh took his ride across the line first in 2003 and then again successively in 2009 and 2010, but that isn't enough to compete with Pat Smullen. The man from County Offaly in Ireland was responsible for seven winners between 2001 and 2017, making him the race's most successful jockey.

What name would you expect to see next to the most successful trainer for the race other than one with 'O'Brien' at the end? John Oxx won it twice in 2003 and 2005, whilst Dermot Weld has seen seven of the horses that he's trained win the race to date, but he's pipped to the post by Aidan O'Brien who has been responsible for eight of the winners so far. The 2013 victory for The United States was achieved with Joseph O'Brien in the saddle, too.

Irish EBF 'Sovereign Path' Handicap

7f

The day’s final race is similar to the opening pair, given that it’s also run in association with the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund. A Premier Handicap race that sees weight assigned to the horses according to their ability, it is run over seven furlongs and is for horses aged three and over. The winner takes home €150,000 in prize money.

 

About the Irish Champion Stakes Day

Leopardstown Racecourse Grandstand
Photo © Sarah777

When it comes to major races taking place in Ireland, there are two courses that tend to dominate proceedings: the Curragh and Leopardstown. Never is that more true than during mid-September, when the two courses share the honours for the Irish Champions Weekend. We've covered the races at the Curragh on Irish St Leger Day elsewhere on the site, so this page is all about those taking place on Irish Champions Stakes Day.

As you can imagine, it's the Irish Champion Stakes that takes centre stage, but it's far from the only race worthy of a mention that occurs during the meeting. Unsurprisingly, the Irish are remarkably proud of the racing that takes place over the two days at the two different courses, as well they should be. It is as good a weekend of flat racing as you'll find anywhere in Europe, so let's have a look at the races on offer at Leopardstown here.