Just six months ago, Jessica Harrington was celebrating one of her greatest achievements in training, when Jezki won the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. As one of Ireland’s leading National Hunt trainers, she has won many major prizes at high-profile meetings over the past 15 years.
There can be little doubt that Moscow Flyer helped put the Co. Kildare trainer on the map. His exploits as a two mile chaser place him among the all-time greats. His stunning victories included two Queen Mother Champion Chase successes at the Cheltenham Festival. Further major wins have come with talented horses such as Macs Joy, Cork All Star, Boston’s Angel and now Jezki. The latter looks set for another terrific winter campaign.
Though clearly overshadowed by their winter exploits, the Commonstown Stables have had their share of success on the flat. Pathfork remains Jessica’s highest profile flat winner, when achieving Group 1 success at the Curragh in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes in 2010. She also trained Laughing Lashes and Curtain Call to Group 2 victories in 2010 and 2007 respectively. However, the latest stable star was felt good enough to take her place at Longchamp this weekend, and thereby become the stables first runner on Arc day.
On Saturday morning Jessica kindly took a minute to inform me; “I have never had a runner on Arc day, and so I am very excited.” For someone who has accomplished so much at the great festival meetings of Punchestown and Cheltenham, such excitement goes to show what a momentous achievement it is to train a horse for the greatest flat meeting in Europe.
A two-year-old filly named Jack Naylor was the reason Jessica Harrington spent Sunday in Paris as opposed to a trip to Tipperary. Not that spending a Sunday in Tipperary would be anything other than a wonderful experience. The young filly is named, in part, after the rather unscrupulous TV character in Holby City, but also after the owner’s grandson Jack.
By Champs Elysees out of a Nashwan mare, she has made dramatic progress since her fifth place in a Leopardstown maiden back in May. Impressive wins in a Group 3 at Leopardstown before a listed event at the Curragh, helped book her place in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac.
And what a race she ran. Prominent from the start, she was unable to match the finishing burst of the Aidan O’Brien trained Found. With the French filly Ervedya taking second, she stayed on well for a terrific third place. Her pedigree suggests that a step up in trip next season would bring further improvement. There’s little doubt that Jessica Harrington’s faith in her exciting filly has been completely justified, and the trip to Longchamp has been a major success for all concerned.
As the trainer’s focus inevitably shifts towards a thrilling jumps campaign that lies ahead, she will no doubt take great satisfaction on a successful summer campaign. The trip to Paris is sure to have given Jessica a taste for further great days in the flat seasons to come. Jack Naylor looks sure to play a key role in any such adventures.