Roger Charlton: stronger pace will suit powerful Headman in Irish Champion

Roger Charlton is hoping a proper gallop at Leopardstown will enable the exciting Headman to show his worth in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The three-year-old, supported into general 4-1 second favourite (from 6s) on Monday, only narrowly won the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d'Ornano at Deauville last month, despite being sent off as the 3-5 favourite.

Yet he emerged with his reputation enhanced having displayed an eyecatching turn of foot to overhaul Roman Candle and win from a deeply unpromising position. 

That slow gallop at Deauville masked his obvious superiority, but there is no doubt Headman is a colt firmly on the up.

"He’s been very good, we’ve been very happy with him," said Charlton, who won the Irish Champion Stakes two years ago with Decorated Knight. "His preparation has been good and I’ve been pleased with his work. 

"I think it’s fair to say the tempo of the Champion Stakes is more likely to suit him than his last two races in France. The track will suit him and I think the ground hopefully isn’t going to be soft, which will help." 

Charlton acknowledges that Saturday's test will be the stiffest one asked of the Khalid Abdullah-owned Headman, and added: "We go there with a chance but respecting the fact that he probably needs to step up quite a lot.

"He’s taking on Magical, Madhmoon and possibly Elarqam, who had good form in the Juddmonte. We need to step up but, as an individual, I’m very happy with him."

Only the Aidan O'Brien-trained Magical at 2-1 was on Monday shorter in the market than the son of Kingman. 

With just six starts to his name – and only four on turf – Headman is more unexposed than his battle-hardened rivals and, even if Saturday's race comes too soon in his development, Charlton is expecting big things next season.

"I’ve no doubt in my mind that if we have a smooth run through the winter then he will be a better horse next year because he is a big, strong, powerful horse who is likely to improve," said the trainer. 

"He may be a bit light on experience but he’s learned something from his last two races. I don’t think it’ll be a big field and we’ll give it a shot. If he didn’t run, it’s quite a long time to wait till next April or May and for a big horse that probably doesn’t make sense. 

"It’s the logical place to go. He needs to come forward four or five lengths at least so we’ll see."

Confirmations for the €1.25 million Irish Champion Stakes will be revealed on Tuesday with final declarations made on Thursday.

However, Juddmonte International Stakes hero Japan is unlikely to line up. Trainer Aidan O'Brien explained of the general 5-1 second favourite for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe: "We're probably going to go to France with Japan rather than running this weekend. He seems to be fine."