Matron mission for Mother Earth

Aidan O’Brien’s Classic heroine Mother Earth is primed to bid for her third Group One of the year in the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes.

Mother Earth, who has already put the 1000 Guineas and Prix Rothschild titles in the Ballydoyle cabinet this year, will be joined in a 13-strong field by O’Brien’s Empress Josephine – an Irish Guineas winner in May – and a third stablemate, Friendly.

Strong opposition for them at Leopardstown on Saturday includes Paddy Twomey’s dual Group Three winner Pearls Galore, Ger Lyons’ Acanella and Willie McCreery’s Epona Plays.

Another out to make her seniority count is Ed Walker’s four-year-old Dreamloper, who crosses the Irish Sea from Lambourn after managing only fourth in Newbury’s Hungerford Stakes last time but as an emphatic Group Three winner at Ascot before then.

Last year’s winner Champers Elysees has run well in defeat several times for Johnny Murtagh this summer – while old rivals Shale and Pretty Gorgeous, for brothers Donnacha and Joseph O’Brien respectively, are also very much in the reckoning.

Mother Earth is nonetheless clear favourite to augment her already successful campaign, under Ryan Moore.

O’Brien said: “She is a lovely filly who probably doesn’t want to be in front too long.

“She’s a great traveller and very enthusiastic and usually very consistent.”

As well as her two triumphs this summer, Mother Earth has performed with significant credit in three defeats – at the top level throughout.

Empress Josephine has twice failed to reach the frame in Group One company since her Classic win at the Curragh – including when upped to 10 furlongs last time in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.

O’Brien said: “Empress Josephine went a mile and a quarter the last day, and it just didn’t work for her – they didn’t go fast enough for her.

“We’re going back to a mile with her and will ride her a bit patiently this time.”

Dreamloper has established her niche at a mile or seven furlongs – but will not appreciate any easing of the ground from the current good.

“She wants any rain to stay away,” said Walker.

“She’s really got her act together this year and was brilliant in the Valiant (at Ascot).

“The race unfolded the wrong way for her at Newbury, but still she did not disgrace herself.

“Back to a mile, hopefully there will be a good pace and she can switch off – then I think she’ll run a big race. It’s very exciting.”

Walker to raise his sights for Ascot victor Dreamloper

Ed Walker will select from an array of Group One and Two targets for Dreamloper after the talented filly put her career back on track at Ascot.

Walker was hugely disappointed and at a loss to explain Dreamloper’s lacklustre performance when she could manage only 10th of 18 as favourite in Royal Ascot’s Kensington Palace Stakes.

But she was back to winning form with a vengeance on her return to the Berkshire track for last month’s Valiant Stakes – and the Lambourn trainer is therefore encouraged to factor in top-level assignments such as the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown and Newmarket’s Sun Chariot later in the season.

He has even contemplated a possible trans-Atlantic trip to Saratoga this month – although at present, that challenge for this month’s Grade Two Ballston Spa Stakes is on the back-burner.

Walker said: “I left (Royal) Ascot so gutted and disappointed.

“I (then) did the slightly unorthodox thing of running badly in a handicap and sticking her in a Group race (next).

“But she’s a well-bred filly, and we’d always agreed that the plan was always to try to win the Kensington Palace and then go and find black type after Ascot.

“So just because she threw in the first real dud of her career, I still thought it was worth sticking to the plan.”

Dreamloper belatedly proved her trainer right.

He added: “In her run before Royal Ascot, she and (Sir Michael Stoute’s Valiant Stakes runner-up) Lights On were in a head-bobbing finish which we came out the wrong side of – and then she (Lights On) went and won a Listed race by 10 lengths at Pontefract.

“That gave me the confidence that she is a Stakes filly. So it paid off in spades, which is great.

“Everything from here is a bonus – we’ll aim for Group Twos and Group Ones.

“I’ve entered her up, against colts as well. We actually supplemented her for the Matron – so the Matron, Sun Chariot, and I’m toying with taking her to Saratoga for the Ballston Spa (on August 28).

“I think we’re probably not going to do that, but we’re weighing up our options really. I think the only reason we wouldn’t go to the Ballston Spa is it might just hinder some of her opportunities here, in Ireland and France.

“So we will probably keep her over here for now, and see.”

Dreamloper’s near five-length Group Three win at Ascot came over a mile, but Walker believes she may be equally adept at that distance or a furlong shorter.

He said: “She’s a very good filly. She’s been quite hard to train – she’s always been a bit over-enthusiastic.

Great Ambassador may be set for a rise in class after his fine Stewards' Cup run
Great Ambassador may be set for a rise in class after his fine Stewards’ Cup run (John Walton/PA)

“The girl who rides her every day, Molly Stratton, has done a magnificent job just switching her off – and it’s all come good.

“Where we go from here, I’m not entirely sure (yet). But we’ll hunt black type, with obviously the eye on the big prize of going for some Group One form.

“She’s got bags of speed. They didn’t go fast at Ascot, in the Valiant, and started quickening it up from four out.

“She hit the line really well and won well, but I don’t think it was a massive stamina test. I think it probably really suited her good turn of foot, so I would happily come back to seven.”

He was also enthused by Great Ambassador’s efforts as a close third in Saturday’s Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood – and he too may soon be set for a rise in class.

“I was thrilled and gutted at the same time with Goodwood,” said Walker, who believes Great Ambassador could easily have bagged the famous handicap prize with better fortune.

He added: “If he’s drawn the other side he probably would have won, and he probably would have won if he hadn’t lugged across the track looking for some company.

“It’s gutting, because I think we’ve been second, third and fourth in the race now in recent years. It’s a lovely race to win, and I’ll keep trying.”

The next stop for improving four-year-old Great Ambassador, meanwhile, may or may not be in handicap company – and could involve a further drop in trip.

“Maybe a Portland (at Doncaster next month), five and a half (furlongs),” said Walker.

“It’s amazing how much speed this horse has – (jockey) Will (Buick) said you could bring him back to five.

“I think he’ll end up being a Pattern book horse before the end of the year.

“We’ll see whether we keep trying to win these sprint handicaps, that are nearly impossible to win, or we go up (in class).

“We’ve had a couple of goes (in big handicaps) now. He’s a very good horse.”

Dreamloper bounces back for Valiant success

Dreamloper bounced back from Royal Ascot disappointment with an emphatic victory in the British Racecourses Join Sunflower Lanyard Scheme Valiant Stakes.

A winner at the Berkshire circuit last season, Ed Walker’s filly was sent off favourite to double her Ascot tally at last month’s showpiece meeting in the Kensington Palace Stakes, but could only finish in midfield.

Stepping up to Group Three level for the first time on her return to the same course, the four-year-old looked to have plenty on her plate, with the returning Fillies’ Mile runner-up Indigo Girl and the prolific Lights On among her rivals.

But ridden confidently by champion jockey Oisin Murphy, 13-2 chance Dreamloper moved smoothly onto the heels of the leaders passing the two-furlong marker before quickening up in brilliant style to leave the chasing pack trailing in her wake.

Lights On narrowly beat the slow-starting Waliyak to the runner-up spot, some four and a half lengths behind the impressive winner, with 11-8 favourite Indigo Girl only fourth on her belated seasonal reappearance.

Walker said: “We were so confident going into Royal Ascot – and we still have no idea what happened there, I’ve never found a reason. She just ran flat at a time the horses were running great. There were no excuses.

“Today she showed how good she could be. Oisin was very good on her as well.

“I must give a massive shout to Molly Stratton, who rides her every day. She’s not the easiest filly, and Molly has done a great job with her.”

Considering future targets, the trainer added: “We’ve no plan in mind, but she’s won a Group Three there – so it will be Group Twos and Group Ones now.

“The Sun Chariot could be a shout – but she’d have to take on (stablemate) Primo Bacio!”

Murphy was impressed with the filly’s performance, saying: “She was much more relaxed today, and Ed was thrilled with how she’d been going at home.

“It was a huge step up on what she’s achieved so far, but it was very satisfying to see her go and do that, with her owner here as well.

“Why not step up higher? I’m not sure what races are in mind, but you’d hope she could step up a level.”