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Magical thwarts Ghaiyyath in Irish Champion epic

Magical got the better of Ghaiyyath in a pulsating finish to the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Seamie Heffernan, the five-year-old mare was turning around Juddmonte International form with Ghaiyyath, as the pair went head to head from the off.

As usual, William Buick set out to make all on the Charlie Appleby-trained 8-13 favourite – but the distress signals were starting to emerge at the top of the straight as Magical moved upsides, while Japan switched to the inside rail to throw down his challenge.

To his credit, Ghaiyyath kept fighting, but Magical (9-2) found an extra gear in the final half-furlong to pull clear at the line, scoring by three-quarters of a length as she repeated her victory from 12 months ago, becoming just the second back-to-back winner after O’Brien’s Dylan Thomas in 2006 and 2007.

O’Brien said: “We were very happy after York, we saw what she was able to do. When she went by herself in York, she just lost interest a little bit and then the others came around her and she started staying on after the race was over.

“What she always wants is to eyeball a horse and battle. Seamie was happy to make the running today if William wanted to get a lead and if William was going to go on, Seamie was going to go with him to keep her interested and he gave her a brilliant ride.

“She’s a serious mare when you get into a battle with her and when you really get into a battle with her, that’s when you really see what she can do, as you saw there today.

Magical just proved too strong for Ghaiyyath
Magical just proved too strong for Ghaiyyath (PA)
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Magical was initially retired from racing at the end of last year after a setback ruled her out of a planned Breeders’ Cup run, but owners John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith reversed that decision and returned her to training in the spring – a move that has reaped rich dividends.

O’Brien said: “The lads made the call and all credit to them for doing it.

“She was booked to go to No Nay Never and we were just so delighted that they decided to give her another go. They said that hopefully No Nay Never will be there next year and hopefully she will be as well. She’s an amazing mare.

“I suppose we are learning about her all the time. If you get away from her she gets a bit lazy, but if you get into a fight with her very few will eyeball her.

“That’s what she did – she eyeballed the colt all the way.

“She’s a great filly. It wasn’t a big field, but they were all good horses in it. Armory (third-placed stablemate) ran an unbelievable race as well.

“It’s a massive race. Of all the European races, prestige-wise, this is one of the top, if not the top, because on ratings over a 10-year period, this nearly comes out on top of all the races.

“Every year all the high-rated horses turn up here. It has a perfect place in the calendar, perfect ground, perfect distance.”

O’Brien also houses 1000 Guineas and Oaks winner Love in his Ballydoyle yard, and she currently tops the betting for next month’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp.

Magical could also be in the frame for that race – although the Prix de l’Opera is alternative option on the same day, with a trip to America another possible

O’Brien added: “She has the choice of the Arc or the fillies’ race on the same day. It will depend on what the lads want to do with Love.

“The Breeders’ Cup could also suit her really well.”

Charlie Appleby (right) with Ghaiyyath following his Juddmonte win at York last month
Charlie Appleby (right) with Ghaiyyath following his Juddmonte win at York last month (David Davies/PA)

Appleby was magnanimous in defeat, and is no rush to map out Ghaiyyath’s next outing.

He told www.godolphin.com: “I talked with William Buick afterwards, who said that it rode like a decent race and they have gone a good gallop. Turning in, Ghaiyyath was there with every chance but full credit to Magical, who is a multiple Group One winner.

“They have produced another good duel up the straight but she has come out on top this time.

“Ghaiyyath will have a short break now before we decide on our next target. We will make a call over the coming weeks and discuss everything before confirming where to go next with him.”

Ghaiyyath heads super six in Irish Champion

Ghaiyyath will face five rivals in a red-hot renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday, the first day of Irish Champions Weekend.

Charlie Appleby’s stable star has enjoyed a perfect season, winning the Coronation Cup, beating Enable in the Eclipse and strolling to victory in the Juddmonte International at York.

His trip to Ireland had been up in the air until a change in quarantine regulations meant usual jockey William Buick could take the ride and following a steady gallop on Thursday morning, his participation was confirmed.

“It was a routine piece of work to check his well-being, and he has come through it without a worry,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.

“It was not strong work, more a breeze, which is normal procedure three days before a race. He’s telling us that he’s ready now for another big race.

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“We are really looking forward to the weekend. He travels to Ireland at the peak of his career, unbeaten in four starts this year, three of them Group Ones, two of which were officially rated the best performances globally in 2020.

“He’s now a five-year-old, and by any standards, he is lightly-raced. He has run only 12 times, winning nine and placing twice. This is his fourth season in training, and I believe what we are now seeing is an outstanding racehorse at the top of his game.”

Fantastic Light (right) edged out the brilliant Galileo in 2001
Fantastic Light (right) edged out the brilliant Galileo in 2001 (John Giles/PA)

Appleby added: “He’s going to Leopardstown in as good a condition as we have ever had him. I’m as pleased with him as I was before the Juddmonte International at York, where I thought he was very professional in the manner he went about everything.”

Aidan O’Brien fields three against the Godolphin star in Magical, who finished second to Ghaiyyath at York, last year’s Juddmonte International winner Japan and Armory.

Adding further spice to the contest is Jean-Claude Rouget’s Sottsass, who will be ridden by Colin Keane. Rouget won the race in 2016 with Almanzor.

Jessica Harrington’s Leo De Fury completes the field.

Fancy Blue has enjoyed a great season already
Fancy Blue has enjoyed a great season already (George Selwyn/PA)

The other Group One on Saturday’s card is the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes in which 11 will go to post.

They are headed by Donnacha O’Brien’s Fancy Blue, already the winner of the French Oaks and the Nassau Stakes this season, but she is now dropping back to a mile. She will be ridden by Ryan Moore.

His father Aidan fields Irish 1000 Guineas winner Peaceful along with So Wonderful and Love Locket, while his brother Joseph runs Argentinian import Wilds Dreams and New York Girl.

Jessica Harrington’s Albigna was a Group One winner last year, but was well beaten in the Guineas on her return and in Group Three company recently. She will be joined by stablemate Valeria Messalina.

Johnny Murtagh is also doubly represented with Champers Elysees and Know It All.

Ger Lyons’ Ides Of August and Jim Bolger’s Jack Duggan will aim to maintain their unbeaten records in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes, while in the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile, Simon and Ed Crisford’s Century Dream will aim to add to his recent Goodwood win against John Quinn’s Safe Voyage – another good ride Keane has picked up.

Ghaiyyath all set for Irish Champion Stakes

Ghaiyyath will run in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, after pleasing trainer Charlie Appleby in a routine piece of work.

The five-year-old showed his well-being when put through his paces with his usual lead horse on Wednesday – to confirm his trip to Ireland this weekend.

“It was a routine piece of work to check his well-being, and he has come through it without a worry,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com.

“It was not strong work, more a breeze, which is normal procedure three days before a race. He’s telling us that he’s ready now for another big race.

“We are really looking forward to the weekend. He travels to Ireland at the peak of his career, unbeaten in four starts this year, three of them Group Ones, two of which were officially rated the best performances globally in 2020.

“He’s now a five-year-old, and by any standards, he is lightly-raced. He has run only 12 times, winning nine and placing twice. This is his fourth season in training, and I believe what we are now seeing is an outstanding racehorse at the top of his game.”

Hopes are therefore very high for another big run on Saturday, after Ghaiyyath’s three successive Group One victories this summer – preceded by a Group Three success at Meydan in February.

Appleby added: “He’s going to Leopardstown in as good a condition as we have ever had him. I’m as pleased with him as I was before the Group One Juddmonte International at York, where I thought he was very professional in the manner he went about everything.

“He showed his maturity. With every race this year, I think he has got better. From Newmarket, where he broke the course record for one and a half miles, galloping from end to end, to Sandown, where he beat Enable….to York, where his brilliance shone through.”