Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Al Kazeem ups the stakes

Champion challenger: Al Kazeem is set to run in the Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday week
Champion challenger: Al Kazeem is set to run in the Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday week

Saturday week's Qipco Irish Champion Stakes has received a significant boost with Roger Charlton revealing that last year's runner-up Al Kazeem could grace the €1m highlight of Irish Champions Weekend.

Ballydoyle's Juddmonte International hero Australia remains as short as 2/7 ante-post favourite for the 10-furlong contest, but Al Kazeem's presence would go some way to enhancing the impression that the outcome might not be a formality for the dual Classic winner.

Kevin Ryan has already stated that The Grey Gatsby will likely re-oppose his York conqueror at Leopardstown and Al Kazeem could lend further substance to proceedings.

Returned to training after proving sub-fertile at stud, last year's triple Group One winner saw off Godolphin's True Story in course-record time at Windsor on Saturday.

"He has come out of his race well and was his normal fresh and happy self this morning – in fact he dropped his rider whilst trotting," Charlton said of Al Kazeem.

"We have not ruled out the idea of returning to Leopardstown to run in the Irish Champion Stakes.

"He clearly needs to improve again to have any chance of adding to his three Group Ones, but it is not impossible and we both like a challenge."

French handlers Criquette Head-Maarek and Andre Fabre have given similarly frank updates on their respective marquee candidates for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on October 5.

Head-Maarek's 2013 Arc heroine Treve is pencilled in for her third start of the season in the Prix Vermeille on Arc trials day at Longchamp on September 14.

Second favourite for the Arc at 7/1 behind the German star Sea The Moon, Treve was chinned by Cirrus Des Aigles in the Ganay before finishing third to The Fugue at Royal Ascot, after which she was found to have pulled muscles.

"She is en route to either the Prix Vermeille or the Prix Foy, but I think the Vermeille is more likely," said Head-Maarek.

"Treve seems fine, she's happy in herself and it looks like all the problems are gone.

"Last year she was unbeaten and this year she has been beaten twice, so it is a little bit different.

"It is difficult to say that I am 100 per cent confident, but all I can say is at this moment I am very happy."

Fabre will target the Prix Niel trial with Gallante, the Coolmore-owned three-year-old that clung on in the Grand Prix de Paris last month.

"I don't think he's that good, but who knows?" Fabre said of a possible Arc tilt for the 25/1 shot.

Cirrus Des Aigles is to contest the Prix Dollar on Arc weekend before trying to add to his win and two runner-up finishes in Ascot's Champion Stakes.

Corinne Barande-Barbe confirmed the plan for the game eight-year-old as he continues his recovery after picking up a knock when completing a hat-trick of Group Ones for 2014 in Epsom's Coronation Cup.

Davy Russell, meanwhile, has had a €200 fine that was imposed for not fulfiling his sole booking at Downpatrick on Monday rescinded after providing the Turf Club with a valid explanation.

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