Global Weekly Preview: Bolger provides Magic in another 'hot' Champion
Last year's G1 Irish Champion Stakes was widely regarded as the best race to have taken place in Europe, and Jim Bolger believes it could be a similar scenario at Leopardstown 12 months later.
The Godolphin trainer, who again saddles Moonlight Magic, is of the opinion that Saturday's 10-runner field contains much the same strength in depth this year.
"It's hot enough, and it's probably as strong as when Almanzor won it last year," he added.
Bolger is expecting improvement from the magnificently-bred Moonlight Magic, winner of four races and placed another four times, from 13 starts.
The four-year-old was sixth home behind Almanzor in last year's running, but Bolger is upbeat in anticipation of a conspicuous turn-around in form from the Godolphin runner this time.
"If you're asking how he is going to improve from sixth last year, I say I am happier with him this year," Bolger said.
"I feel that he has improved. I don't think the ground comes into it. It could partially be maturity, but horses generally don't maintain the same level of form over years.
"He's well in himself. I'm happy with him," the trainer added.
Bolger believes that Eminent and Churchill will provide very strong opposition. "I have respect for them all. Churchill has the form. But Eminent has never run a bad race and must run very well," he added.
Leopardstown on Saturday and the Curragh on Sunday serve up two outstanding cards on what is billed as Ireland's feature weekend of racing. It promises cracking action, which clashes with the 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock on the first day, while three Arc 'trials' at Chantilly and the G1 Prix du Moulin go head-to-head with the G1 Irish St Leger and G1 Vincent O'Brien National Stakes on the second day.
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby is hopeful that a return to one mile will suit talented three-year-old Wuheida when she tackles older horses in the G1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.
"She was obviously stretched when third, running over a mile and three furlongs, in the G1 German Oaks last time.
"But she's come out of that well. She looks great, she's done everything right, and the ground is fine for her. She comes back in trip, but based on her second in the G1 Falmouth Stakes, that should suit," the trainer added.
Winter, the winner of her last four starts, is a three-year-old filly with the capacity to make her mark outside her own gender category.