Magical to lead brilliant Ballydoyle team into battle on Irish Champions Weekend

Aidan O'Brien believes Magical could come alive this autumn and expressed himself "thrilled" with her workout on Wednesday morning as she continues her preparation for the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes.

Magical finishing second behind Crystal Ocean in the Prince of Wales's Stakes, photo Liesl King

It is a race her trainer is trying to win for an eighth time but, rather surprisingly, for the first time since So You Think in 2011. 

O'Brien welcomed members of the media to his Ballydoyle base for the launch of Longines Irish Champions Weekend, the pinnacle of the Irish Flat season in mid-September which the master trainer hailed as the best two days of racing anywhere in the world, and Magical and Japan are both being considered for the Saturday showpiece at Leopardstown.

They are two of 15 entries who hail from Ballydoyle and, before then, the pair could clash next Wednesday at York in what promises to be a mouthwatering renewal of the Juddmonte International.

O'Brien said: "It's an unbelievable weekend and one I'm really looking forward to. I don't think there's a weekend anywhere in the world with racing like it. We are very, very lucky to have it in Ireland.

"Magical worked this morning and we were really happy with her. She's had a little break but is back on song now. She'll probably go to York next week [Juddmonte International] and then on to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes. 

"Last year she came alive in the autumn and I know by looking at her she will do the same this year. If she does, it'll be very exciting over the next few months.

"Enable is obviously a superstar, and we all know that, but there has never been much between her and Magical when they've met. They are two great fillies."

Japan and Ryan Moore, photo Liesl King

Japan has taken time to warm up this season but he was red-hot at Royal Ascot when landing the King Edward VII Stakes and supplemented that success with a first Group 1 in the Grand Prix de Paris.

He is 3-1 favourite with most firms for next month's St Leger, but could instead go down the mile-and-a-quarter route as O'Brien is keen for him to tackle the Juddmonte International before deciding whether he will go to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes over the same trip.

"We always felt Japan was very nice. There were other horses there to pick up the spots earlier in the season until he progressed. He has come along nicely among them and he's still coming along. He's in a lovely place, both mentally and physically, and we believe he has progressed again since France," O'Brien said. 

He added: "He's ready to go again and we might come back to a mile and a quarter next week at York before having a think about Leopardstown. 

"I know a lot of people have been slagging the three-year-olds this year but I would disagree with that. I think they're good. Ascot was disappointing for them but the ground went soft and it didn't suit them."

The two-year-olds from Ballydoyle certainly look good and O'Brien has pencilled in leading 2,000 Guineas fancy Armory for the Goffs National Stakes and Love for the Moyglare Stud Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend. 

"The plan with Armory is to head for the Futurity and then on to the National Stakes. He's a Galileo so is very genuine. He travels very strongly in his races and then quickens. He looks very, very nice. 

"Love is very uncomplicated. She can be ridden forward or held up. She's very genuine, has a lovely mind and the plan for her is the Debutante followed by the Moyglare," O'Brien said. 

We have already reached the middle of August, but O'Brien believes there is still plenty to play for over the remainder of the Flat season.

"The big racing starts now. We have York, Leopardstown and the Curragh. Autumn has become a very important time now and I'm very excited about the next few months," he said.