Winter Set for Matron Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend
Dual Classic winner Winter is set to return to action on Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown in the Group One Matron Stakes for fillies and mares over a mile. The Aidan O’Brien-trained filly is expected to be the red-hot favourite for the race once the final declarations are made 48 hours before the contest.
Winter started her incredible run this season in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket where she went into the fillies’ Classic at 9/1 in the betting and was expected to be the second string from her yard behind Rhododendron. With Wayne Lordan on her back, the pair travelled comfortably through the race and finished strongly inside the final couple of furlongs to finish two lengths ahead of her stablemate.
The three-year-old returned to action just weeks later to record her second Classic success of the campaign at the Curragh in the Irish 1000 Guineas where the margin was even bigger on that occasion, with over four lengths between the winning filly and the rest of the field.
Winter enhanced her dominance in the 1m division this season at Royal Ascot as she picked up her third Group One win in just two months in the Coronation Stakes in an incredible treble. It was a professional performance at the Berkshire track as she was ridden to the lead at the 1f pole by Ryan Moore where she picked up late for her jockey in what looked like an effortless performance.
The toughest test of her year so far was meant to come in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, as not only was she stepping up in trip for the first time to 1m2f, she was challenging the older generation. She was a popular tip for the feature race on day five of Glorious Goodwood and she justified that support behind her as she proved as equally effective over 10f to win the Group One summer race,
If she does line up in the Matron Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend, she will be stepping back down to 1m and could meet the likes of Roly Poly again and the Musidora Stakes winner Shutter Speed, who still had a big reputation despite two recent defeats.
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The Irish Champions Stakes could still be considered by Winter’s trainer O’Brien, however, 2000 Guineas winner Churchill looks sure to run in the contest and is the evens favourite to prevail in a race the Ballydoyle man has dominated over the last couple of decades.
O’Brien also has a big decision to make with Winter with regards to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly in October. If the dual Classic winner was to take part in the most prestigious open-age flat race in Europe, she would be asked to stretch her stamina up to 1m4f. That may be a little too far for her so the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes or Champions Stakes on British Champions Day are likely to prove more tempting for the Irish Champion Trainer.