GHAIYYATH is rated the best horse in the world following an unbeaten run of four victories this year with success at the highest level in the Coronation Stakes, Eclipse at Sandown and International Stakes at York.
The five-year-old is currently at the peak of his career having beaten several of the best horses in training this season with Stradivarius, Enable and Magical all behind the Godolphin owned runner.
His progression into the highest level came after his runaway victory in the Grosser Preis von Baden in Germany last September and despite a poor performance in the Arc on very soft ground last October, Ghaiyyath will be extremely hard to beat on Saturday afternoon.
JAPAN has not managed to taste success this year but has some good form in the book for Aidan O’Brien from last season.
He showed excellent mid-season improvement last year, winning the King Edward at Royal Ascot, Grand Prix de Paris and International Stakes at York, before finishing fourth in the Arc behind Waldgeist.
He underperformed when perhaps needing the run when fourth to Lord North on his seasonal debut at Ascot in June and has 2 ½ lengths to make up with Ghaiyyath from the Eclipse at Sandown.
He was no match for Enable when a well-beaten third in the King George at Ascot and returns here after a break while also dropping back to the ten-furlong trip.
LEO DE FURY has a lot to find on official ratings, but Jessica Harrington has decided to take her chance with prize-money on offer for every position with just six-declared runners.
His best performance to date came at the Curragh earlier this season when securing the Group 2 Moorsebridge Stakes, but overall the four-year-old has found too many Ballydoyle horses too good.
He finished behind Magical in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and comes into this race having finished last to Armory in the Royal Whip at the Curragh last month.
Jean-Claude Rouget won this race in 2016 with Almanzor and takes his chance this year with SOTTSAAS, last year’s winner of the French Derby at Chantilly.
He managed to beat Persian King on that occasion, a horse who recently returned to form with victory in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin at Longchamp last weekend for Andre Fabre.
The four-year-old’s form this season has been somewhat hit and miss, having been turned over at odds-on on his seasonal return in Paris in May, before landing the Prix Ganay in mid-June.
He comes here following defeat to Skalleti in Group 3 company at Deauville last month, but remember he was ahead of both Ghaiyyath and Magical in the Arc at Longchamp last October.
MAGICAL is the defending champion and despite Aidan O’Brien’s excellent record in this race, she might have to play second fiddle to the Godolphin favourite just like her previous run at York last month.
The ten-furlong trip is her ideal distance having not finished outside the top two places at this trip in her career, which has included a total of five Group 1 victories.
She returned this season with easy wins in both the Pretty Polly and Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh before finding Ghaiyyath too good in the International Stakes at York.
She’s clearly the best of the home challenge in my opinion and like many of her previous battles with Enable, it looks unfortunate that she’s found another tough superstar to go to war with again this season.
ARMORY is the only three-year-old in the line-up and if you like stats, the Irish Champion Stakes has been won four-times in the previous six-years by a three-year-old.
He progressed nicely early doors as a juvenile last year before finding it tough behind better class rivals in both Pinatubo and Victor Ludorum at the backend of last season.
He finished fourth twice this season, behind Siskin in the Irish Guineas and Magical in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. He comes into this race after success in the Royal Whip but perhaps could be used to upset Ghaiyyath upfront in some tactical mind-games.
VERDICT: GHAIYYATH is currently in the prime of his career and despite any tactical mind-games from the Ballydoyle camp, Godolphin will secure their first Irish Champion Stakes success since Grandera in 2002.
He’s beaten the best around this season and once William Buick sets the perfect fractions for his horse upfront, it will be a repeat success to his victories at Newmarket, Sandown and York.
Japan has been too inconsistent and despite having the services of Ryan Moore in the saddle, I’d be more inclined to side with the defending champion, Magical to finish second under Seamie Heffernan.
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