1pt each-way Qemah @7/1, 17:35 Leopardstown, Saturday

A massive weekend of racing lies ahead with day one of Leopardstown’s Irish Champions Weekend being Saturday’s highlight.

We tipped the winner of both Group Ones last year with 6/1 Alice Springs in the Matron Stakes and 13/2 Almanzor, now sadly retired, landing a vintage renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes.

Things might not be so straightforward this year as the Champion Stakes lacks some depth but the 2017 renewal of the Matron is as good as Group One fillies’ races get.

Winter, a four-time Group One winner this season, is the odds-on favourite and there really are precious few obvious reasons to take her on besides some tempting prices from her opponents.

She’s clearly top-class, gets the trip and the forecast softer ground, so there are few negatives besides Aidan O’Brien stating she had a small setback in her preparation and claimed she will come on for the run – so perhaps she’s vulnerable enough to oppose today.

She’s joined by several stablemates and Guineas- and Oaks-second Rhododendron looks the stand-out price at 14/1 under Derby-winning ridder Padraig Beggy.

It seems likely that Rhododendron will need this run too after being handed a bit of a break after disappointing in the French Oaks, and future targets at the Breeders’ Cup and similar meets are more likely to see her in A1 condition.

That said she is a lot better than 14/1 and there’s a lot to like about that bet.

I am not much of a fan of Roly Poly, who is on a Group One hat-trick after winning the Falmouth and Prix Rothschild.

She possibly won’t like the easier ground at Leopardstown and I think she was fairly fortunate to win that Group One in France, where today’s opponents Persuasive – returning after a long break – and Qemah – given a very questionable ride – had some good excuses in defeat.

If there wasn’t so much proven form about then John Gosden’s Persuasive would appeal, but there’s not much of a case to make there on known evidence.

QEMAH¬†is the one to back from that duo at 7/1, as she’s a two-time Group One winner over a mile and her beating of Aljazzi and Usherette at Royal Ascot this season is of that class too.

Softer ground is fine for her and I think she was very unfortunate to be beaten in her defence of the Prix Rothschild this season, given her usual jockey was sidelined and the substitute held her up when she wanted to go forward and gave her a lot to do from the back.

With Gregory Benoist back in the saddle I’m more optimistic of a good ride, and the wide draw of 12 isn’t too much of a negative given Qemah prefers to come from off the pace.

It’s a little concerning she flopped in this race last year and a long season was blamed, but connections seem happy and I’m having a hard time seeing her outside the first three.

The three-year-olds have less of a weight concession at this stage in the season so it levels the playing field somewhat, and Winter still has to prove herself against older milers like the selection.

1pt each-way Qemah @7/1, 17:35 Leopardstown, Saturday (1,2,3, 1/4 with Bet365)

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