Gary O'Brien: Three bets for Irish Champion Stakes day at Leopardstown

Leopardstown racecourse in Ireland
Leopardstown (above) is the setting for the Irish Champion Stakes

In his first column for Betfair, our new racing ambassador Gary O'Brien selects a trio of bets from the big meeting at Leopardstown on Saturday afternoon...

"The two premier handicaps on the card are both of interest and, in the first of them, the Petingo at 14:30, Machine Learner can make a bold bid to go one better than when second to Laws Of Spin two years ago."

It's great to have quality fare like that provided by Irish Champions weekend to tackle in my first column for Betfair - there certainly can't be any complaints about lack of suitable opportunities!

Elarqam boosts Irish Champion Stakes

The marquee event suffered an early blow when the All Ireland Football final went to a replay but the authorities sensibly moved swiftly to limit the damage and the addition of Elarqam to the Irish Champion Stakes has at least given Saturday's Leopardstown highlight a welcome boost.

Mark Johnston's raider was certainly better than the bare form when a close third in York's Juddmonte International last month but his owner possibly has an even better chance with Derby runner-up Madhmoon, who now finally gets a chance to race over what has for a while promised to be his optimum distance. Overall it's a race I can happily just watch however.

Machine Learner to go one better?

The two premier handicaps on the card are both of more interest from a betting point of view and in the first of them, the Petingo at 14:30, Machine Learner can make a bold bid to go one better than when second to Laws Of Spin two years ago.

Three-year-olds seem to have been making hay against their elders in these sort of races of late but Joe Tuite's stalwart comes here in good heart and looks a solid bet to place at the very least. He has suffered more than his fair share of ill fortune in his last two starts at Sandown and admittedly it's hardly ideal that he has gone up a total of 3lb without winning as a result.

But that still leaves him 2lb below the mark he competed off when suffering that narrow reverse in this extended 1m4f contest in 2017, and it's noteworthy that connections seem to have kept him 'on ice' since that latest effort on July 24.

Current Option can thrive in big field

Current Option - 1280.jpg

Current Option (pictured, left) is another who has been climbing the weights in defeat of late but there should be plenty more to come from Ado McGuinness's British import after just seven career starts and he is worth siding with in the concluding Sovereign Path handicap.

The key to Current Option's chances in the 18:00 is the return to seven furlongs for the Camelot gelding, whose sole success to date came over the trip in a Thirsk maiden in June on his final start for William Haggas. He looked set to pay back a huge chunk of the £85,000 his new owners shelled out for him at the Tattersalls July sale when powering to the front just under two furlongs out in last month's Irish Cambridgeshire, only to be collared close home by the more efficiently ridden Jassaar.

Despite the big field there looks to be plenty of dead wood here and a 5lb pull with his conqueror (though Ronan Whelan does take over from a 5lb claimer) should enable him to turn the tables over this more suitable journey.

Fury out for revenge

I came away from the Curragh meeting on August 16 thinking Leo De Fury could avenge his head defeat to Buckhurst in the Royal Whip Stakes should the pair meet again, and the opportunity to back that opinion presents itself in the Group 3 Paddy Power Betting Shop Stakes at 15:40.

Jessica Harrington's charge looked the less streetwise of the two Australia colts on that occasion before finishing with real gusto and appears highly likely to relish the extra two furlongs here. Market leader Mount Everest is a potentially formidable rival based on his second to Japan in last year's Beresford Stakes but it might be unwise to take that form too literally and he is worth taking on on his belated seasonal bow.

Sunday's Curragh card contains plenty of star names, and with the Pat Smullen Champions Race an added attraction it promises to be a great afternoon. However I struggled to find a compelling wager so will sit it out.

**

Gary will be back on Betting.Betfair every week with his verdict on the best bets from the Irish weekend meetings, while our other new ambassador, Kevin Blake, will be here every Thursday with a look at all the big talking points. And both Gary and Kevin will feature on Racing...Only Bettor, our new weekly podcast, launching later this month.

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