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Irish challengers set for Champions Sprint

Gordon Lord Byron is one of four Irish trained runnersGordon Lord Byron is one of four Irish trained runners
© Photo Healy Racing

A strong Irish challenge for the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot is headed by Tom Hogan's stable star Gordon Lord Byron.

Since clinching his third Group One victory in Australia earlier in the year, the six-year-old has run some tremendous races in defeat back on European soil, chasing home G Force in the Sprint Cup and most recently finishing second in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp.

Wayne Lordan has ridden Gordon Lord Byron on his last three appearances and he expects him to make his presence felt again.

"He's a very tough and consistent horse and has been running well all year against good horses in good races," said the jockey. "The ground is going to be very soft, but he has won a Group One on heavy ground.

"G Force is the horse we all have to beat, so we'll see how we go. Hopefully our horse will run well and if he was to have his turn, you couldn't say he didn't deserve it."

Maarek won the British Champions Sprint two years ago and Evanna McCutcheon's star performer is back for more.

He fell out of the stalls in the Prix de l'Abbaye earlier this month and the trainer is hoping a better start can set him up for a big run.

McCutcheon said: "He's been in absolutely fantastic form since he went to France and we couldn't be happier with him.

"There were a lot of hard luck stories in the Abbaye, but our horse missed the start and met trouble in running. If you do the maths he lost about five lengths and was beaten less than three, so it was a fantastic run on ground that was lively enough.

"He has good form on softer ground, but he's actually been running well on better ground, so I hope it's not too testing, going back over six furlongs."

With star sprinters Slade Power and Sole Power being prepared for trips across the globe, trainer Eddie Lynam relies on the filly Viztoria and Gathering Power, first and second in a Listed race at the Curragh just last Sunday.

"Viztoria's come out of Sunday's Curragh win in very good form and ate up well straight after the race," said Lynam.

"It wouldn't be ideal bringing her out again so quickly but we haven't been able to run her over the summer because of the fast ground so we had to take the chance of running her last weekend.

"The reason for her light campaign this season has just been the ground - she hasn't had any physical issues. She finished third in this race last year and I simply don't know if she is better now than she was then."

An Saighdiur, who finished third to Viztoria on Sunday, is the remaining Irish challenger and he will be ridden by Kieran Fallon.

David O'Meara expects G Force to prove "very difficult to beat" as he bids to add to his Sprint Cup success.

The former National Hunt jockey has been one of the biggest success stories of the Flat racing scene in recent seasons, becoming a dominant player on the northern circuit and striking for the first time at Group One level as G Force swooped to conquer at Haydock last month.

It did not take long for another top-level success to come along, with another sprinter, Move In Time, clinching the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp just a fortnight ago and another triumph on Champions Day in Berkshire would cap a memorable campaign for the Nawton-based handler.

O'Meara: "He's better than anything I've trained before. He has a lot of ability. If he turns up with the same form as at Haydock he'll be very difficult to beat."