All-conquering Minding faces new test as she tackles colts at Leopardstown
Minding leads a strong team from Ballydoyle as Aidan O'Brien seeks an eighth win in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
A shock defeat in the Irish 1,000 Guineas aside, the Galileo filly has been flawless this term, with her Classic strikes in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and Investec Oaks at Epsom followed by comprehensive victories against her elders in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh and the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
She takes on the boys, including dual Derby hero Harzand, for the first time on Saturday, and O'Brien said: "We're very happy with her and she's had a nice bit of time since her last run. She's very well, her work is very good and physically she's doing very well.
"She has great scope, she can quicken, she travels and relaxes. I suppose her ability to quicken is probably her biggest strength and then her mind on top of that, as she can take racing.
"She can handle all types of ground and all types of tracks. She's an amazing filly really. She's gone a mile, a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half - she's done it all and taken it with a very happy smile on her face."
Highland Reel, Found and Sir Isaac Newton complete O'Brien's formidable hand.
Following his King George triumph, Highland Reel dropped to 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International and ran a fine race to fill the runner-up spot behind Postponed.
Breeders' Cup Turf heroine Found has finished second on her last four starts, but O'Brien expects her to strip fitter for her latest run in the Yorkshire Oaks.
"She ran a very good race in York and she's going to start kicking into gear for the last quarter of the season," said the trainer.
There are two major contenders from France with Jean-Claude Rouget's Prix du Jockey Club winner Almanzor joined by the Andre Fabre-trained New Bay. The last French-trained winner of the Irish Champion Stakes was John Hammond's Suave Dancer in 1991.
Sylvain Vidal, racing manager for Almanzor's part-owner Gerard Augustin-Normand, said: "We're very excited and after the race we will know much more.
"It is a very tough race and there are two other very good horses in there (Harzand and Minding), so we will see. Afterwards we will know whether our horse is good or very good."
New Bay won last year's French Derby before finishing third in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He disappointed on his return to action in the Prix d'Ispahan at Chantilly, but bounced back to win a Group Three at Deauville last month.
Fabre said: "The distance should suit him and we want to try and win another big race with him. He won a Group Three in Deauville in good style last time out and since then he has done really well."