Harzand takes trip test in Irish Champion Stakes
Pat Smullen admits the drop in distance may not be ideal for Harzand in what promises to be a pulsating renewal of the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
The son of Sea The Stars provided trainer Dermot Weld with his first triumph in the Investec Derby at Epsom in early June and followed up in the Irish Derby at the Curragh three weeks later.
"Harzand has been an unbelievable horse this year, he's improved with every run and hopefully he'll continue to do so," said Smullen.
"The mile and a quarter would have to be a little bit of a concern, but ease in the ground would counteract that.
"He's by no means a slow horse. When he won his maiden at Leopardstown I thought he was a horse that wanted to go further, but like all good horses do he's kept surprising me and pleasing me every time I've ridden him.
"Minding is head and shoulders above all the other three-year-old fillies. She's been exceptionally good to win at a mile, a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. She is a stand-out three-year-old filly, but it's looking like one hell of a race."
Aidan O'Brien's brilliant filly Minding is four from five in Group One events this season, landing the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks along the way, and tackles colts for the first time.
Throw into the mix her King George-winning stable companion Highland Reel, Breeders' Cup heroine Found, French Derby winner Almanzor, Coral-Eclipse victor Hawkbill and Prince of Wales's Stakes scorer My Dream Boat and everything points to the Foxrock feature being the race of the season so far.
Harzand has enjoyed a midsummer break since his second Classic triumph at the Curragh and Weld is anticipating further improvement.
He said: "Harzand has many qualities and I think courage has to be up there at the very top. I think he progressed from Epsom to the Irish Derby and I'm of the opinion that he's progressed again. That's what I expect him to do.
"I always knew he was a colt with a lot of talent, from early in the spring. He won his maiden in Cork by 16 lengths - he just sprinted away - and his work just got better and better. Apart from the Irish Champion Stakes, the Prix de l'Arc (de Triomphe) is a target for him."
Ken Condon's stable star Success Days secured a deserved return to the winner's enclosure in the Royal Whip but takes a big step up.
"Having won the Ballysax and the Derrinstown at Leopardstown last year, he showed he took to the course well," the trainer told At The Races.
"We're under no illusions that if he's going to be a factor in what looks a super renewal, he's going to have to run 7lb better than he's ever run before. But having said that, his last run was excellent, in my view, and his run in the Tattersalls Gold Cup was a very good run as well.
"He has it in him, hopefully, and it still looks like he's improving."