Harzand and Minding go head-to-head

Irish Champions Weekend kicks off at Leopardstown with the best renewal of the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes seen for many a year.

Collectively, the 13 runners have won 19 Group One races and seven Classics, with this season's Derby and Oaks winners Harzand and Minding the headline acts.

It is anything but a two-horse race, though, with the last three French Derby winners in opposition, including 2014 Irish Champion hero The Grey Gatsby, a Breeders' Cup winner in Found, King George victor Highland Reel and Coral-Eclipse winner Hawkbill.

But most eyes will be on the three-year-old superstars, with Harzand returning from a summer holiday with connections eyeing a crack at the Arc after this, and Minding taking on the boys for the first time.

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With Minding in the feature event, Aidan O'Brien is represented by Falmouth Stakes winner Alice Springs in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes but she has been beaten three times this term by crack French filly Qemah.

Jean-Claude Rouget's raider is a hot favourite, but Jet Setting beat Minding in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and will give Qemah something to aim at.Another Classic hero on show is Awtaad, who goes in the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes.

The Kevin Prendergast-trained Irish 2,000 Guineas winner is on a retrieval mission following a below-par Sussex Stakes performance.

This year's Epsom Derby runner-up US Army Ranger and 2015 St Leger second Bondi Beach form part of a three-pronged Ballydoyle assault on the KPMG Enterprise Stakes, while Classic clues for next year are potentially on offer when their exciting stablemate Douglas Macarthur tackles the Willis Towers Watson Champions Juvenile Stakes.

The opening Ballylinch Stud EBF Fillies Maiden (3.30pm) is often informative and newcomer Aneen is a half-sister to Awtaad.

Karl Burke sends last week's Old Borough Cup heroine Intense Tango over for the Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Petingo' Handicap, and her compatriot Kelinni tries to repeat last year's success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Sovereign Path' Handica

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