Magical keeps heat on Ghaiyyath for prized Cartier Horse of the Year honour

Magical ridden by Seamus Heffernan (right) beats Ghaiyyath (right) to win the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes
Magical ridden by Seamus Heffernan (right) beats Ghaiyyath (right) to win the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes Credit: PA

Magical and Ghaiyyath fought out a terrific finish to the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday and, following the mare’s three-quarter-length success, the two five-year-olds are now neck and neck in the race to become Cartier Horse of the Year.

The race was a tactical masterpiece from Ballydoyle. Instead of Ghaiyyath being allowed to dictate on his own terms out in front, he was hassled all the way by Magical, who sat on his quarters and eyeballed him a long way out.

"She's a great mare - we just felt she needed to sit close to him (Ghaiyyath) to keep her interested as she gets a little bit lazy when she sits back," said trainer Aidan O'Brien afterwards.

The pair are now one win apiece in their meetings this season with Ghaiyyath coming out on top in the Juddmonte International at York.

Obviously, it is not just between these two. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe will go a long way to sorting out the Horse of the Year, especially if it was won by Enable or Love, who all go into the race with a solid foundation of points behind them.

The three-year-old fillies look better than the colts this season, which is borne out by the fact that both Love and Fancy Blue have more points than the leading colt, Pinatubo.

It is still relatively early days as far as the two-year-olds are concerned. Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega looked a bit unlucky behind the impressive Thunder Moon in the National Stakes on Sunday, but still shares top spot among the colts with The Lir Jet courtesy of his Phoenix Stakes wins.

The quick American filly Campanelle and Sunday’s Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Shale share the lead in the two-year-old filly category, but there is plenty to play for.