Siskin has Breeders’ Cup Mile target before stud duties in Japan

Siskin is being aimed at the Breeders’ Cup Mile and will then head to Japan to stand at stud.

Trained by Ger Lyons, the First Defence colt won the Irish 2,000 Guineas in tremendous style earlier in the season, stretching his unbeaten run to five.

Since then he has been beaten in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and the Prix du Moulin, losing his chance in the latter having become upset on loading into the stalls.

“He’s worked this morning, he’s in great order and looks fantastic,” said Lyons on Wednesday, speaking on Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“This year was about the Guineas, the Sussex, come back for a light campaign, maybe the Boomerang and have a look at the QEII ground depending, but that has been put on hold.

“I didn’t want to send him as a three-year-old to the Breeders’ Cup, but he won’t be staying in training at four so the Breeders’ Cup now becomes an option and at this moment he is being trained with that in mind.

“He’s going to stand in Japan. I’m gutted. In many ways I’m delighted for him as he’ll get a serious quality book of mares that he maybe wouldn’t get in Ireland, but I’d have loved to have trained him at four.

“It just goes to show where we are in the industry when powerhouses like Juddmonte and Coolmore still have to sell their best horses for economic reasons.

“I thought when I got to the stage of winning a Guineas and an Oaks we’d get to see their careers out. We got to this stage by selling our best horses yet here we are, at the top table, still selling our best horses which is disappointing and frustrating to say the least.”

Lyons is happy to put a line through his Moulin run, a second time Siskin has had problems at the start after the Middle Park last season.

He went on: “His run in France was a non event. The stalls thing reared its ugly head again. I keep saying he’s never shown issues at home, but he’s let me down twice now. They put the hood on him and then it became a non-event.

“The Moulin wasn’t part of my plan and any time I’ve changed my plan mid-season it’s never worked out. It changed because the ground was nice and there were sales and things going on behind the scenes. I would have personally loved to have played it safe and gone for the Boomerang.”

While Siskin is being trained for the Breeders’ Cup meeting, he would only run if the ground is on the quick side.

“It has been lovely ground at Keeneland, but I got a video through yesterday of torrential rain. I worked in Keeneland so I’ll have to touch base. I wouldn’t like to see him over there on soft ground,” said Lyons.

“If it was a three-year-old race you’d stick your chest out and take any of them on, but the older horses are the spoke in the wheel.”

Ecliptical pounces for Keane and Lyons

Ecliptical produced a memorable performance to come from last to first as he pulled off a long-term plan in the valuable Foran Equine Irish EBF Auction Race Final – to complete a Naas double for connections.

Title-chasing Colin Keane anchored Ger Lyons’ well-backed 9-2 shot last of 15 in the valuable event.

If any of Ecliptical’s supporters were becoming anxious, however, Keane was not among them – and after pulling to the wide outside, he circled the field and ate up ground over the stiff finish.

The juvenile, unraced since winning his second career start on similarly testing ground in a Bellewstown maiden two months ago, proved his pace for this drop to seven furlongs – winning by a length and a quarter from 50-1 outsider The Blue Panther, with Vafortino a further half-length back in third.

The winning trainer’s brother and assistant Shane Lyons said: “When he won in Bellewstown the plan was to go for this race.

“He wants a mile – but we thought with the bit of cut in the ground this would suit.

“He’ll be a lovely horse next year, is all heart and showed there that he has a touch of class as well.

“He was drawn 16, Colin dropped him in – and to be able to come from last to first, you have to be good.”

Parent’s Prayer was another winner to strike from off the pace, capping a fine weekend for Archie Watson in the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Garnet Stakes.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Lambourn trainer Watson, who 24 hours earlier had won his first Group One courtesy of Glen Shiel in the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot, was travelling Parent’s Prayer to Ireland for the second time in as many months – following her third in the Fairy Bridge Stakes at Gowran.

She went two places better this time, challenging down the middle and surging clear under Ben Coen to win by three lengths at 12-1 – with 80-1 outsider Stormy Belle and 8-1 shot Best On Stage dead-heating for second.

Coen said of the winner: “She loved the ground and travelled through the race very easily.

“She picked up well at the two pole, and I probably got there too soon. She was getting a bit lonely, but she toughed it out.”

Listed honours were also on offer in the following Irish Stallion Farms EBF Bluebell Stakes, and Jessica Harrington’s Barrington Court claimed them to give Keane’s title rival Shane Foley a winner.

JP McManus’ former hurdler was having just her fourth start on the Flat, at the age of six, and won for the second time in this discipline – arriving on the scene in the straight and finishing a length and a half in front of Snapraeceps.

Harrington is already planning a swift return for the winning 15-8 favourite.

She said: “She may come back here for the Finale Stakes (November 7).

“I don’t think she will go back over hurdles – because every time she runs she hurts herself.”

Power Under Me was a winning debutant in the opening Tifrums Irish EBF Maiden – for Keane, Lyons and Ecliptical’s owner Vincent Gaul.

The gelding repelled the challenge of favourite Coulthard in the final furlong to win by two and a quarter lengths at 16-5.

Power Under Me was making a belated debut, but Shane Lyons expects there will be plenty more to come.

“He has a high knee action, so we were waiting for the ground,” he said.

“He’s only come good in the last six weeks. He was backward, but his work was very promising at home.

“Ideally we would like to get another run in for the Birdcatcher (back at Naas next month), but I don’t think we’ll have time for that.

“He’ll be a nice horse for next year. It’s amazing how well (Power Under Me’s sire) Mehmas has done this year, and he’s our only one.”

Elizabethan ran out an easy winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden, for Aidan O’Brien and Seamie Heffernan.

On her fourth career start, she was not inconvenienced racing out on her own up the stands side as she broke her duck by a length and a quarter at 100-30.

Wood Ranger was the emphatic winning favourite in the Foran Equine Irish EBF Nursery Handicap.

The 15-8 shot and top weight collared long-time leader Fine Distraction in the final furlong to prevail by two and three-quarter lengths under 5lb claimer Nathan Crosse for Willie McCreery, with the first two finishing well clear.

The winning trainer said: “I was trying to get him into the main race [the auction final], but it’s nice to pick up the (Plus 10) bonus here.

“He’s probably a seven-furlong horse, but we had to run him with the good prize-money here today.”

Options open for Classic hero Siskin

Connections of Siskin are contemplating their next move after he finished fourth in a high-class renewal of the Prix du Moulin.

Ger Lyons’ stable star won the first five races of his career, with Group One triumphs coming in the Phoenix Stakes last season and the Irish 2,000 Guineas three months ago.

The son of First Defence lost his unbeaten record in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, but was far from disgraced in finishing third behind the now-retired Mohaather.

However, he could never get involved behind Persian King on his latest appearance in France.

“It was probably the best race over a mile there’s been for quite some time, given there were six Group One winners in it,” said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Siskin’s owner Khalid Abdullah.

“We’re being reflective at the moment, but he’s come out of the race well. We’re just contemplating at the moment.

“He hasn’t done much since the race. He won’t be going for the Prix de la Foret, but there are still other considerations for him.

“I think we just want to get him back into good form with himself, that’s the main thing.”

Monday Musings: Noel Martin’s Quest Lives On

Two events, either end of the past seven days, were a cause for sadness and poignancy, writes Tony Stafford. Last Monday Noel Martin, the Jamaican-born Birmingham resident, died age 60. Yesterday at Chantilly, the three-year-old filly Onassis, daughter of Martin’s brilliant but luckless race-mare Jacqueline Quest, won a Listed race at Chantilly.

Martin’s life story was well-known. A lifelong racing fan, he had been among a large group of British construction workers based in Germany in the mid-1990’s. While driving his car one day in June 1996, Martin was targeted by a Neo-Nazi, a 17-year-old youth who threw a 6-kilogram concrete block at the car’s windscreen simply because of his colour. Martin lost control, hit a tree and was left as a quadriplegic with no control of either his legs or arms.

Amazingly, he pursued his love of racing, becoming an owner and winning two Royal Ascot races in 2006 – the well-tried double of the Ascot Stakes and Queen Alexandra Stakes – with Baddam, trained by Mick Channon.

This came at a time when he was considering travelling back to Germany to have an assisted suicide, so greatly did he suffer. He related in one interview, “Sometimes I didn’t leave the house more than two or three times in a year”, talking of non-stop pain in his feet. A television documentary was made about his planned suicide, but Martin took exception to elements of it. Soon after, he changed his mind about ending his life and founded a charity aimed at challenging racial hatred.

An exchange scheme between young people in Germany and Birmingham became the focal point of his later years. Jacqueline Quest was certainly a major part and nobody who was on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket for the 2010 1,000 Guineas will ever forget the scenes. Martin, in his wheelchair, having welcomed back his Sir Henry Cecil-trained 66-1 winner, had to endure the shock of her being disqualified in favour of the Criquette Head-trained favourite, Special Duty.

Watching the race again now, it is possible to see why the result was amended as Tom Queally, on the winner, changed his whip into his left hand late on. It did provide the impetus to wrest the initiative back from the French filly, but also contributed to her general right-handed drift throughout the closing stages. That said, actual interference seemed minimal and it must have been a tight decision in the stewards’ room.

Martin’s stoic acceptance of the result was admirable and, while Jacqueline Quest – named for his wife Jacqueline who died in 2000 from cancer, very early into his many years of infirmity – never won another race, she was destined to have quite a say in the world of thoroughbred breeding.

Your first 30 days for just £1

For mares to succeed, they need to find the right owners, and in Major Christopher Hanbury of Triermore Stud, Co Meath, that was certainly the case. Even though Jacqueline Quest’s subsequent racing years were unproductive, finishing at nearby trainer Ian Williams, who had also handled Baddam later in his career, she still realised 600,000gns when sold as a four-year-old at Tattersall’s December sales. Not a bad return for a filly, originally bought for €60,000 in Ireland as a yearling.

Hanbury mated her with Galileo, a union which has been repeated several times since. The first two products, Hibiscus, sold for 625,000 gns, and World War (1.2 million gns), were minor winners for Aidan O’Brien and Ger Lyons respectively. They, and all those that followed, were prepared for the sale at Peter Stanley’s New England stud. Next came Hidden Dragon, who was twice withdrawn from sales, first as a yearling and then as a two-year-old catalogued from Ballydoyle. Now an unraced five-year-old, he is listed as being in the ownership of J P McManus with Joseph O’Brien.

Triermore’s fourth Galileo mating resulted in the October 2017 sale of Line Of Duty for 400,000 gns to Godolphin. Charlie Appleby trained him and memorably won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf race with him at Churchill Downs. That proved his last win. He finished eighth in Anthony Van Dyck’s Derby and sadly died at the end of last year.

For his 2017 mating, Hanbury switched to Galileo’s great rival, Dubawi. Obviously, Line Of Duty hadn’t started racing yet and I’m sure the Dubawi mating was planned with a Godolphin yearling purchase in mind. Instead, at the sales, Jacqueline Quest had her least lucrative result, the filly that would be named Onassis going to a bid of “only” 200,000 gns. It was effectively a buy-back which resulted in a partnership between Triermore Stud and Peter Stanley.

They sent the cleverly-named Onassis to Newmarket trainer Charlie Fellowes and the pair must have been delighted when she won at the sixth time of asking a Newcastle fillies’ nursery off a mark of 75 last October with Hayley Turner in the saddle.

Onassis was subsequently off the track until last month. Returning in the Sandringham Stakes at Royal Ascot, again partnered by Turner, she won at 33-1, exactly repeating for connections the previous year’s result in the same race when Thanks Be, trained by Fellowes, also won at 33-1 giving Hayley her first Royal Ascot victory.

After this year’s Ascot, Turner suffered an injury which kept her off the track for three weeks, so she was unable to ride Onassis in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom. Onassis finished a creditable fourth under Ryan Moore in that Group 3 event.

Hayley, though, was fit again for Chantilly and she brought Onassis through from some way back to win nicely. There was a brief reminder of that Guineas disqualification a decade earlier when the Chantilly stewards looked into their winding route through, which seemed slightly to inconvenience one of the runners, but the result was soon confirmed. Maybe in less enlightened days, the Jacqueline Quest family might have suffered another “injustice”.

Onassis has raced nine times for three wins, and Turner is three for three on her. As the first woman to ride 100 winners in a season and only the second after Gay Kelleway to win a Royal Ascot race, she is a true icon of the sport. Twenty years on from her first win, she retains all her charm and riding talent. How fitting that in Hollie Doyle she has a successor who may one day (how about this year?) challenge for the jockeys’ championship. She, too, has a century and a Royal Ascot win to her name. A Group 1 is the next ambition for Doyle to match Turner’s achievements.

There remains one more chapter in the Jacqueline Quest story waiting to unfold as Charlie Appleby has charge for Godolphin of the latest product of that well-tried marriage. Line Of Duty’s full-brother, now a two-year-old, sold last year for 1.1 million gns, and will hopefully appear on the track in the not too far distant future.

Meanwhile, it seems that Appleby has decided against confronting Enable again with Ghaiyyath, who beat her with such panache in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes earlier this month in Saturday’s Qipco King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. The entries will be eagerly anticipated this morning, but you get the feeling from that first run back that the great mare might be as good as ever at the age of six.

Presumably Ghaiyyath will wait for York, whose race committee will be hoping that, like Goodwood next Saturday, they might be permitted to have at least one day with public attending. A crowd of 5,000 will be allowed at Goodwood on Saturday week. I’ve always wanted to excuse myself one year from the Sussex Downs in favour of a first look at Galway, as they clash every year. Seems like I’ll be stuck on the sofa for an 18th straight week instead of doing either!


Like Noel Martin, the recently knighted Sir Graham Wylie enjoyed his racing, so much so that at one time he had 80 horses in training with Howard Johnson in Co Durham. The partnership was already creaking a little when Johnson lost his licence over a serious horse welfare issue, since when Wylie had his reduced team of 20 split between Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls. And now the founder of the Sage software company has decided – at Noel Martin’s all-too-young age of 60 – to take a step back from ownership.

Over in Ireland, one trainer who is inexorably moving into the top echelon of his trade is Ger Lyons. Already trainer of Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Siskin this year, he followed with success in Saturday’s Irish Oaks with the 10-1 shot Even So. Lyons runs Siskin in the Sussex Stakes next week when Frankie Dettori is on the bench waiting for the call if Colin Keane decides not to suffer the two-week quarantine requirement by coming over.

Even So had a trio of Coolmore-owned fillies as well as Jessica Harrington’s favourite Cayenne Pepper to beat on Saturday, but she readily outstayed the Harrington filly. She runs for a partnership of the wives of John Magnier and Paul Shanahan, hence the pink colours.

On Sunday at The Curragh Lyons followed up in the Group 2 Kilboy Estates Stakes for fillies with Lemista. This was the fourth win in succession for the daughter of Raven’s Pass, but the first in the colours of her new owner, Peter M Brant. Yes, Ger Lyons is truly in the big time now.