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Australia can make it special day with fantastic spread

By Richard Forristal

A grand concept that has been 18 months in gestation finally becomes a reality this evening with a fantastic spread at Leopardstown.

Australia is the marquee name on duty in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes. The presence of the Ballydoyle equine superstar is vitally important to the inaugural edition of the €3.8m Irish Champions Weekend (ICW), but an unmistakable celebratory feel has gathered momentum as the countdown accelerated in recent weeks.

This is about more than one horse. It is about elevating the very best of Irish Flat racing to a new level, a concentrated assembly of quality that has the capacity to increase the sport's appeal as it develops over the next few years.

Courtesy of unusually favourable weather conditions, its ideal positioning in the calendar ahead of its international predecessors and the massive prize money on offer, ICW is poised to get off to a dream start.

Moreover, in a year of exceptional three-year-olds, it was important that at least one turned up here, and tonight's proceedings should reach a heady crescendo with Australia.

Aidan O'Brien's regally-bred colt has hardly put a foot wrong since flooring Free Eagle at this fixture 12 months ago.

Subsequently brilliant in the Derby at Epsom before cantering up in a poor edition of the Irish equivalent, he returned from a short break to run out an utterly superior winner of the Juddmonte International at York.

In slamming The Grey Gatsby and his elders over 10 furlongs, he proved that he is well equipped to compete at the highest level over today's trip.

More than that, though, such was the polished nature of Australia's performance that there are grounds for believing that this exceptional colt is still getting better.

Belfast Telegraph


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