KARL Burke is under no illusions as to the size of the task facing his stable star Laurens when she takes on Jessica Harrington’s superstar filly Alpha Centauri – a four-time Group One winner – in tonight’s Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.
The Yorkshire filly kicked off her campaign by finishing second in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket before claiming successive Group One victories in France. She disappointed when stepped up to a mile-and-a-half in last month’s Yorkshire Oaks won by Sea Of Class, but Burke reports Laurens to have thrived on Middleham’s gallops ahead of her return to a mile.
Danny Tudhope replaces the injured PJ McDonald in the saddle and Leyburn-based Burke said: “She looks as well as she’s done all year and she’s working better than ever.
“It’s a tough one up against Alpha Centauri, but we’re looking forward to it.
“Some people will say it’s a bit strange to drop her back to a mile. After the Yorkshire Oaks, we looked at it and given on her only previous run over a mile she finished second in the Guineas, we felt it was worth a go. She’s thrived and got stronger as the year has gone on and has actually got quicker. Strength doesn’t always mean stamina and I think that’s the mistake we made.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Champion Stakes is headed by John Gosden’s Roaring Lion who has already won York’s Dante Stakes – and Juddmonte International – this season. It promises to be a tactical battle – Aidan O’Brien saddles four of the eight declared runners – but Irish-born Murphy, 23, is hopeful of recording his first Group One win in his homeland. “I still had loads of horse at the line at York. I couldn’t pull him up. He has an unbelievable amount of ability,” he said.