Tag Archive for: Irish Champions weekend

Romantic Proposal repels British raiders in Flying Five

Romantic Proposal saw off a strong British challenge to claim top honours in the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh.

Six years on from saddling star sprinter Sole Power to claim the Group One contest, trainer Eddie Lynam was out to double his tally with Romantic Proposal, who was a 16-1 chance in a market dominated by the raiding party.

The narrow favourite was Archie Watson’s perennial bridesmaid Dragon Symbol, while Tim Easterby’s Winter Power aimed to follow up her brilliant victory in the Nunthorpe last month.

The Kevin Ryan-trained Glass Slippers also crossed the Irish Sea to defend her Flying Five crown, but in the end none could get into the first two places.

Winter Power set a furious pace for much of the way, but her challenge ultimately ended pretty tamely.

Dragon Symbol and Glass Slippers both looked dangerous racing inside the final furlong, but Romantic Proposal finished best in the hands of Chris Hayes to score by half a length from A Case Of You, with Glass Slippers third and Dragon Symbol fourth.

Lynam said: “She’d been progressing and has just kept on improving.

Chris Hayes celebrates winning on Romantic Proposal
Chris Hayes celebrates winning on Romantic Proposal (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Amy, my daughter, bought her as foal. I always believed that the way the filly was improving, she was capable of running a big race.

“I thought it would go to England, to be honest, but she did everything great.

“I think it’s six years since I’ve had a Group One winner. It’s nice to have another one.

“I’ve only 30 horses, so we’re smaller now – but the team work very hard, and we’re still passionate about it.

“Days like today are great.”

La Petite Coco foils Love in Blandford Stakes

La Petite Coco lunged late to deny dual Classic heroine Love a return to winning ways in the Moyglare “Jewels” Blandford Stakes.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Love looked a potential superstar in the making after winning the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks as a three-year-old last season.

But while she came out on top on her seasonal reappearance in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, the daughter of Galileo had since failed to run up to expectations in the either the King George or the Juddmonte International, finishing third on both occasions.

Having her first start outside of Group One company in over two years, Love was the 6-5 favourite and everything looked to be going according to plan for Ryan Moore after she went a couple of lengths clear of the field early in the home straight.

However, Paddy Twomey’s progressive filly La Petite Coco (16-5) – stepping up in class after an impressive success in the Group Three Give Thanks Stakes at Cork – gave chase and finished with a flourish under Billy Lee to get up and win by a short head.

Twomey said: “We hoped coming here that she might do something like that. The worry was the quicker ground and dropping in trip.

“I had a plan mapped out for her in my head and this was it. I wasn’t expecting Love (to run), but when she turned up I said ‘we’re not changing course, we’re going forward’.

“Barry Irwin (of owners Team Valor) gave me a bit of a lecture about taking on Love, but I told him I thought she was good and I thought she was good enough to take her on.

“The plan has been to go to Ascot (on Champions Day) for the fillies’ and mares’ race and I think a mile and a half is really her thing, not a mile and a quarter.”

Michael Hussey and Big Gossey (left) winning at the Curragh
Michael Hussey and Big Gossey (left) winning at the Curragh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Big Gossey was a surprise winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Bold Lad” Sprint Handicap.

Charles O’Brien’s 33-1 shot raced close to the pace throughout under Michael Hussey – and after taking over the lead inside the final furlongs, he dug deep for pressure to repel the challenge of Arnhem by three-quarters of a length.

“That was sweet,” said Hussey.

“He travelled throughout and picked up well. I was in front a bit too early on him, but he gamed it out.

“He has plenty of speed and did everything right.”

King X J claimed a lucrative victory
King X J claimed a lucrative victory (Brian Lawless/PA)

King X J justified significant market support with victory in the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale Stakes.

Michael O’Callaghan’s juvenile was only seventh on his racecourse introduction at the Curragh three weeks ago, but was a well-backed 11-4 chance for this 300,000 euro contest.

British raider Cashew was in front for much of the race, but King X J powered home under Leigh Roche to win going away.

Roche said: “The only concern coming up here was the trip. He’s a seven-furlong/mile horse, but he has a bit of class – I’d say he’s going to be very good.

“He improved plenty from his first run and the nicer ground today helped him.”

Basilica bids to seal superstar status with Irish Champion victory

There may be only be four runners in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown – but the race still looks set to live up to expectations, with three multiple Group One winners taking each other on.

They are headed by Aidan O’Brien’s St Mark’s Basilica, an unexpected winner of the Dewhurst last season but arguably the leading three-year-old colt in Europe this term.

He has won the French Guineas and Derby, and then put elder rivals Mishriff and Addeybb to the sword in the Eclipse – form which was franked when John and Thady Gosden’s brilliant four-year-old dotted up in the Juddmonte International at York.

St Mark’s Basilica missed his own intended trip to the Knavesmire with an untimely leg infection, but he is now over that ailment – and all roads have led to Leopardstown since.

“The plan was always to go to the French Guineas, and from there to the French Derby,” said O’Brien.

“After that we felt the Eclipse would be a lovely race for him to meet the older horses in, over a mile and a quarter.

“Everything went as we planned all the way really (before the Juddmonte International).

“He’s very offhanded and very straightforward. He has a great mind, he relaxes, he has a great stride and is very genuine – he has all the things that you would love in a horse.”

Connections of St Mark's Basilica at Sandown
Connections of St Mark’s Basilica at Sandown (Nigel French/PA)

O’Brien is looking for his 10th win in Saturday’s race, which nearly all of his champions have on their CV – with Giant’s Causeway, High Chaparral and dual winners Dylan Thomas and Magical on the roll of honour.

“The Irish Champion Stakes is a great race every year,” he said.

“For older horses having an autumn campaign, it’s the tops really. It has come out as the top-rated race in the world on some occasions.”

According to the betting, St Mark’s Basilica’s chief rival is Dermot Weld’s mare Tarnawa, who arrives on a five-race winning streak which includes two French Group Ones and a victory at the Breeders’ Cup.

The five-year-old made a successful return to action in Leopardstown’s Ballyroan Stakes in early August – and champion jockey Colin Keane, who got the ride only by chance after Christophe Soumillon tested positive for Covid-19 in America, is excited for her latest assignment.

“To get on her was a case of being in the right place at the right time,” he said.

“I was fortunate to keep the ride on her, and we’re very much looking forward to the weekend.

“Christophe (Soumillon) failed a Covid test and couldn’t ride her (at the Breeders’ Cup). I got a phone call from Mr Weld asking would I ride her, and I didn’t have to think about it for too long. The rest is history.

“She was good (in the Ballyroan). I think they left her off for longer by design, very much thinking of a backend campaign with her.

“She came back much stronger physically this year. We thought going to Leopardstown she was about 70 per cent, and there was plenty to work on, so to put up the performance she did I thought was very impressive.”

Although Tarnawa’s best form has been over a mile and a half, she did win the Prix de l’Opera over 10 furlongs last autumn.

Keane added: “We’re dropping back two furlongs at the weekend, but she’s proven herself over that trip as well.

“It’s a very good renewal of the race – you’re taking on two of the best three-year-olds in Ireland, if not Europe.

“It’s not going to be easy, but I don’t think I’d swap her for anything.”

The second three-year-old Keane refers to is Jim Bolger’s Poetic Flare, winner of the 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes who has also claimed second in the Irish Guineas, Sussex Stakes and Prix Jacques le Marois.

The select field is completed by Joseph O’Brien’s outsider Patrick Sarsfield.

Point Lonsdale bids for top billing on starry Sunday at the Curragh

Point Lonsdale is one of the many stars on show on a mouth-watering second day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh.

Unbeaten in four starts to date, Aidan O’Brien’s colt already tops ante-post lists for both next year’s 2000 Guineas and the Derby.

The son of Australia is set to face six rivals as he steps up to Group One level for the first time in Sunday’s Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes – including a trio of British challengers in Ebro River, Great Max and Native Trail.

Hugo Palmer’s Ebro River is already a Group One winner, having landed last month’s Keeneland Phoenix Stakes over a furlong shorter at the same track, while Native Trail will bid to provide Charlie Appleby with a third National Stakes success following the recent triumphs of Quorto (2018) and Pinatubo (2019).

Great Max represents Michael Bell, with Duke De Sessa (Dermot Weld), Anatoli (John Feane) and Ultramarine (Joseph O’Brien) the other hopefuls.

The juvenile fillies get their chance to shine in the preceding Moyglare Stud Stakes, in which Aidan O’Brien saddles both Concert Hall and Prettiest.

The standard is set by Joseph O’Brien’s Debutante Stakes heroine Agartha, with course-and-distance scorer Cairde Go Deo (Ger Lyons) and once-raced maiden winner Homeless Songs (Weld) also in contention.

The first of four Group Ones on a stellar card is the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes, which sees Tim Easterby’s Winter Power bid to follow up her Nunthorpe victory of last month.

She is joined on the trip across the Irish Sea by Kevin Ryan’s defending champion Glass Slippers, as well as Dragon Symbol (Archie Watson), Rohaan (David Evans) and Significantly (Karl Burke) – while the home team is headed by Joe Murphy’s course favourite Gustavus Weston.

The Weld-trained Search For A Song will bid for a third successive win in the Comer Group International Irish St. Leger.

She is one of 14 runners declared for the one-mile-six-furlong Classic, with Joseph O’Brien’s pair of Twilight Payment and Baron Samedi and Johnny Murtagh’s Ebor hero Sonnyboyliston chief among her rivals.

Aidan O’Brien’s multiple Group One winner Love, meanwhile, has her sights lowered for the Group Two Blandford Stakes.

St Mark’s Basilica may fly flag alone for Ballydoyle in Irish Champion Stakes

Aidan O’Brien is prepared to rely on St Mark’s Basilica to provide him with a 10th victory in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

It is more than two decades since the great Giant’s Causeway secured the Ballydoyle trainer’s first success in a Group One contest which is now the feature event on the opening afternoon of a star-studded Longines Irish Champions Weekend.

O’Brien has since added to his Irish Champion Stakes tally with such as High Chaparral (2003), Dylan Thomas (2006 and 2007) and Magical, champion for the past two years – and while he has several entries for next Saturday’s renewal, St Mark’s Basilica could be his only runner.

“It’s possible (other horses could run), but not vital,” he said.

“St Mark’s Basilica is very happy to stand alone – he’s always been like that in his races.

“He won’t need any other horses, I think – whatever way the race falls, he should be happy.

“If he goes, there is every chance that he could be (our only runner), without that being written in stone.”

The son of Siyouni has been faultless so far this season, winning both the French 2000 Guineas and the French Derby before beating his elders with a sensational performance in the Coral-Eclipse in early July.

Aidan O'Brien at Sandown
Aidan O’Brien at Sandown (Nigel French/PA)

A late setback meant he missed an intended appearance in last month’s Juddmonte International at York, but O’Brien reports his star three-year-old colt to be firmly on course for Leopardstown.

He said: “We got him back going as soon as we could and got him back into full work – and so far, everything looks good.

“It (the injury) happened before the Juddmonte, so he had his few days (off), and it was kind of like he had a run and he just started building back up for Leopardstown after that.”

O’Brien is confident St Mark’s Basilica possesses all the qualities to contest one of the season’s biggest middle-distance contests, even if he can expect to find Dermot Weld’s top-class mare Tarnawa lying in wait.

“He’s very off-handed and very straightforward,” he said.

“He has a great mind, he relaxes, he has a great stride and is very genuine – he has all the things that you would love in a horse.

“Tarnawa is a great filly – Dermot does a great job with her and Colin (Keane) has given her some brilliant rides.

“She was very impressive the last day. We always say it’s great when these horses turn up in these races, and even greater for us when those races are in Ireland.”

O’Brien is planning a twin assault on the other Group One at Leopardstown, with 1000 Guineas and Prix Rothschild heroine Mother Earth set to be joined by stablemate Empress Josephine in the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes.

“We were delighted with Mother Earth the last day in Deauville, and everything has gone well with her since then,” he said.

One of his interesting runners on the undercard, meanwhile, is the lightly-raced Innisfree – who is pencilled in for the Group Three Paddy Power Stakes.

Having been off the track since filling the runner-up spot behind subsequent Classic hero Kameko in the 2019 Vertem Futurity Trophy almost two years ago, the Galileo colt was a big eyecatcher when fifth in last month’s Royal Whip at the Curragh.

Reflecting on that performance, O’Brien said: “We were very happy. It was obviously a long time since he ran, and the plan was that we would take our time on him, and Seamus (Heffernan) was delighted with him.

Innisfree (left) remains an exciting prospect
Innisfree (left) remains an exciting prospect (PA)

“He was only starting to get into top gear with half a furlong to go, but he came out of the race very well.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him run – and we think this is hopefully going to be a nice race for him.

“He’s a four-year-old, who is big and powerful now, and this is hopefully going to tell us where we’re going to go afterwards.”

With Leopardstown’s fixture followed by another top-class card at the Curragh the following afternoon, O’Brien is preparing several of his biggest guns to run over the two days.

He is relishing the action ahead, particularly following the news a sizeable crowd is expected at both tracks after the Irish Government confirmed on Tuesday it is preparing to lift the vast majority of remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore at the Curragh
Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore at the Curragh (Niall Carson/PA)

O’Brien said: “It’s an unbelievably prestigious weekend for everybody. It has the perfect slot in the calendar and is run at two absolutely world-class tracks.

“I think it’s been a serious initiative and has really made a massive difference to the whole Irish Flat programme and breeding industry.”

He added: “It’s vital (we get crowds back). It creates a great atmosphere and great interest.

“That is what racing is all about really. It has to be a spectacle and it has to be somewhere that everybody wants to go – and when they do go they enjoy it.

“For the future of racing it’s very important, and hopefully it will be brilliant.”

Irish crowds set to grow after Taoiseach confirms plan to lift Covid restrictions

Irish racing crowds appear set to return in increased numbers from next week after confirmation in a briefing from The Taoiseach of plans to begin lifting the vast majority of remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

Among a raft of impending relaxations, Micheal Martin announced that, from next Monday September 6, there will be an easing of attendance restrictions at organised indoor and outdoor events.

The detailed arrangements published by the Irish Government on Tuesday evening included the new regulation that 75% of capacity will be available at outdoor events from the start of next week for vaccinated individuals.

The anticipated update follows recent submissions to Government from Horse Racing Ireland to double current capacity on course from 500 to 1,000 at each meeting – with consideration of up to 5,000 for both days of the Longines Irish Champions meeting, which will take place at Leopardstown and the Curragh on September 11 and 12.

Crowd restrictions for British racing have already been waived, as measures to mitigate against the coronavirus pandemic continue to be relaxed.

But in Ireland, stricter controls have remained – with the highest attendances coming when 1,000 racegoers were permitted both at the Galway Festival and for a Government pilot event when the Curragh hosted the Irish Derby in June.

Close to 90% of people over the age of 18 are now fully vaccinated in Ireland.

Mr Martin said in his address to the nation: “We are very unlikely to ever be able to be rid of the virus completely.

“Indeed, we expect to see an increase in case numbers over the coming weeks.

“But the combined strategy of careful reopening and energetic vaccination has brought us to a point where we can begin to do things differently.

“Sectors that remain closed or are still subject to massive restrictions, can begin to hope again.

“Obviously, we must remain vigilant and nimble, and if a new dangerous variant of concern emerges or if our hospitals come under unsustainable pressure again, we will move quickly to respond to the situation.

“But what is very clear is the efficacy of our vaccines in protecting against severe illness, ICU admission and death.

“Given this, a range of remaining restrictions will be gradually and carefully eased during September, with a view to achieving a significant change in approach towards the end of October.”

Monday Musings: Quelle Weekend!

Compacting the 2020 racing season in Europe’s three major nations has caused some difficulties, but when weekends like the one we’ve just witnessed happen, then assuredly it will be remembered for many years, writes Tony Stafford.

The last of four days of the St Leger meeting started on Wednesday with a trial gathering of 2,500 spectators and then neutered back again to selected insiders only by rising Covid-19 infections, if not deaths, both locally and nationally. France, meanwhile, had its customary trials day on Sunday, three weeks ahead of the Arc meeting itself, and Irish Champions Weekend, at Leopardstown on Saturday and the Curragh yesterday, completed the puzzle.

Normally the trainers associated with the big winners would have wanted to be there to witness their achievements. That wasn’t the case for Joseph O’Brien, who completed an astonishing feat in his 28th year by becoming the only man since the great Harry Wragg to first ride and then train a St Leger winner when Galileo Chrome got the better of Berkshire Rocco under Tom Marquand on Town Moor.

https://twitter.com/skysportsAlexH/status/1304874097470509058

As has been widely reported, Marquand fortuitously got the ride on his first Classic winner because his proposed mount, English King, was re-routed to Longchamp’s Grand Prix de Paris yesterday - where he ran disappointingly. Original booked rider Shane Crosse was in quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19 despite showing no symptoms and “feeling on top of the world”.

Harry Wragg, born in Sheffield in 1902, was one of the leading jockeys between the wars. Known as the Head Waiter for his preferred style of leaving his challenge late – a 1930’s prototype of Jamie Spencer - he won two St Legers, although only the first was truly authentic. Sandwich, in 1931, was trained at Newmarket by Jack Jarvis for the 6th Earl of Rosebery, once captain of Surrey CCC. The 1943 winner, Herringbone, trained by Walter Earl for the 17th Earl of Derby, the last of his six St Legers and twenty Classics in all, was a war-time substitute run at Newmarket.

Wragg’s sole training success in the St Leger was in the 1969 race when Intermezzo won under the Australian jockey Ron Hutchinson for Gerry Oldham. Thus Wragg, who began his training career in 1947, took 38 years between riding the winner of the Classic and training one.

Joseph O’Brien had retired from riding by the age of 23 having been a triple champion jockey in Ireland. He was 20 years old when Landing Light won the St Leger. Compared with Wragg he certainly isn’t any kind of “waiter” with just seven years between the two events.

Back in 1980, a year before Wragg’s retirement from training and only five before he died aged 82, I visited him at his Abington Place stables in Newmarket’s Bury Road, accompanied by his son Geoff who would take over the stable with continued success in 1982.

I went there with Prestatyn-born Bryn Crossley, who sadly died two years ago, as at the time I was helping book his rides. We worked together for only that season, when he was apprenticed to Geoff Huffer at Cheveley Park, the racing stables now the location for Cheveley Park Stud. It was mutually satisfying when that very popular and personable young Welshman became Champion Apprentice that year.

Harry Wragg had booked Bryn for his three-year-old filly Popaway, a sound stayer who from (questionable) memory had 6st9lb in the long handicap. The old master, a true innovator, and one of the first trainers to weigh his horses regularly, wanted to go through the race with Crossley and it was quite an experience for us both. Bryn claimed 5lb and was planning to get down to 7st2lb – which he comfortably managed - for only the second time in 1980. The first was on Jim Bolger’s Lynconwise at Leicester, a race he won very easily on Whit Monday.

There was a chance that if the original Cesarewitch top-weight were to come out at the overnight stage as was rumoured, there would be a big hike in the weights, but he stayed in and that left the very tough Popsi’s Joy, owned and bred by the bearded solicitor Victor Morley Lawson and trained by Michael Haynes at Epsom, to run almost loose on 8st6lb.

Haynes shrewdly booked Lester Piggott, still at the height of his powers in his mid-forties, for the ride at his minimum weight. Two furlongs out Crossley took Popaway to the front, but Lester and Popsi’s Joy were always going easily and soon joined the filly. The two horses quickly drew away from the other 25 runners which included Sir Michael, who had won for Huffer the previous year and John Cherry, successful four years previously under Piggott. Popsi’s Joy won comfortably by a couple of lengths with Popaway around five lengths clear of the rest.

Popsi’s Joy won eight races in 1980 and 17 in all, culminating in a four-length victory as a 10-year-old in the Tote Cesarewitch Trial at Warwick. He survived at Michael Haynes’ stables until dying, aged 25, in 2000.

There was a post-script, as the top-weight, who did eventually miss the race despite having been kept in until the final declaration stage, was to make one further minor footnote in his career.

In those days, the Press Association, where I worked for three years in the early 1970’s, used to issue for Weatherbys a daily bulletin of Official Scratchings in a system far removed from the instant technical processes of today. At the bottom was a sorry final section entitled, “All engagements – dead”. There within a few days of the race, while we were still bemoaning Popaway’s bad luck to be so far out of the weights, was the name of the absent top-weight. If that had happened in 2020, the conspiracy theorists would have had a field day. I think at the time I was just about the only person who noticed.

Incidentally, Morley Lawson had already owned a Cesarewitch winner, the Arthur Pitt-trained Ocean King, ridden by lightweight Tommy Carter in 1974. The previous year, Morley Lawson, then aged 67, won an amateur riders’ Flat race on that horse. I’ve mentioned here a million times about my part-time additional job as Editor of the old Racehorse newspaper. In the first front page piece I wrote for that still revered weekly, I happened to select Ocean King, who won at a long price.

In that issue, it was attributed to The Editor, and on the following Monday morning, my colleague Roger Jackson passed on a letter from Peter O’Sullevan noting the great tip and wishing him a successful career in the future. Understandably Roger’s name, alongside his greyhound selections, was the only one the always very gracious future Sir Peter could find to congratulate.

***

This past weekend was one of tremendous success for Irish stables, not least for the evergreen Dermot Weld who sent over his improving filly Tarnawa to beat Jean-Claude Rouget’s self-professed “champion filly” Raabibah by three lengths in the Prix Vermeille a couple of hours before his Search For A Song repeated last year’s success in the Irish St Leger. Amazingly – and I’d be willing to bet he never expected it to happen – that took him level on nine wins with Aidan O’Brien in that Classic’s long history.

Weld is 72, but he was not the oldest winning trainer at the meeting. Both Jessica Harrington, born a year before Weld, and Jim Bolger, her senior by a hardly-believable five years when you see him, were on the scorecard yesterday. The only notable non-celebrant on the day was Kevin Prendergast, still going strong and training winners. Kevin was born in 1932, the year after Harry Wragg’s first St Leger win as a jockey!

Harrington’s Cayenne Pepper won the Group 2 Blandford Stakes, but it was the exuberant triumph of her two-year-old colt Cadillac in Saturday’s mile Group 2, a win and you’re in ticket to the Breeders’ Cup, that caused most eyebrows to rise.

https://twitter.com/LeopardstownRC/status/1304794412245975040

Over the weekend, British-based – or more accurately Yorkshire-based – trainers won four races, three of them yesterday. The single link is that John Quinn, who won a Group 2 race with the ultra-tough seven-year-old Safe Voyage on Saturday;  Richard Fahey, with a Sunday double, and Kevin Ryan, who won a sprint with Glass Slippers, are all Irish.

https://twitter.com/BetfairRacing/status/1305153653637025797

Mrs Harrington needs to get somebody, presumably her daughter Kate who often works as an expert – which she surely is! - on Racing TV’s Irish coverage as well as an important cog in mum’s operation, to talk to Wikipedia. That fount of sometimes accurate knowledge, says she is “principally a trainer of National Hunt horses but has had some success in Flat racing”. Well said, Wikipedia.

One of the features of this behind-closed-doors season, which started in Ireland with Naas on June 8, has been the astounding success of the irrepressible Johnny Murtagh. He has already won 41 races, gaining a career-defining Group 1 win in Saturday’s Matron Stakes with the ever-improving Champers Elysees who came from last to first to see off the Group 1-winning  Coolmore pair of Peaceful (Aidan) and Fancy Blue (Donnacha). Johnny, highly successful in his time at Ballydoyle of course, continued riding when he first took out a training licence and was in the saddle in 2013 for his first four stakes winners, three at Group level. Champers Elysees was his first Group 1 and a memorable one.

https://twitter.com/HRIRacing/status/1304786040692015105

Murtagh also concluded the two-day and two-venue extravaganza with a spectacular handicap win with his 99-rated (up from 68 three runs ago) Sonnyboyliston, who drew almost five lengths clear of the other 21 runners. Talk about a Group winner in handicapper’s clothing!

Meanwhile Dad and the two precocious sons more than did their bit to keep the family firm in the ascendant. Donnacha had only a handful of runners over the two days but yesterday his Galileo filly, Shale, carrying the Derrick Smith silks, reversed Debutante Stakes form with Joseph’s Pretty Gorgeous when making all in the Group 1 Moyglare Stakes.

https://twitter.com/curraghrace/status/1305157080463048705

Joseph wasn’t content with just the one Group 1 winner over the weekend, though. In a high-class renewal of the National Stakes his once-raced Thunder Moon produced a sensational burst from an unpromising position in the colours of Mrs Chantal Regalo-Gonzalez. Aidan’s duo of Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica avoided trouble in that congested affair to take second and third. It would be more than interesting to see Thunder Moon and Cadillac line up in competition before the end of the year, maybe in Kentucky.

https://twitter.com/RacingTV/status/1305400890791047168

And as ever there was Aidan. His two 2020 Derby winners, Santiago from the Curragh and Serpentine, who made such a mess of the Derby field at Epsom, reappeared, although to be pedantic Santiago had run third to Stradivarius in the Goodwood Cup in between.

Serpentine went across to France for the Grand Prix de Paris and could finish no nearer than fourth to his hitherto disappointing stable-companion Mogul, who had gone into Epsom as the Ballydoyle number one. This was Mogul’s third run since Epsom and he took advantage of his subsequent race-hardening to suggest that those earlier high hopes for him were not illusory. Serpentine, foregoing front-running this time, will have plenty to say in the future, I’m sure.

The two 2019 Derby winners were also out over the weekend. While Curragh hero Sovereign could not keep up the gallop after setting the pace in the Irish St Leger, Anthony Van Dyck avenged that Goodwood Cup reverse for his stable by holding Stradivarius all the way to the line in the Prix Foy at Longchamp. He has not always been able to replicate the form that won him last year’s Derby but on his day, and given fast ground, he’s a formidable Group 1 performer.

https://twitter.com/PMU_Hippique/status/1305165196659392517

Sorry Aidan, it’s not going to get any easier keeping that armada of middle-distance Classic colts apart, especially when you add to the mix Tiger Moth, a four-length Group 3 winner on Saturday in his first race since a strong-finishing second in the Irish Derby. And that’s not to forget where Magical comes into the picture. Good enough to stay close to Ghaiyyath before outpointing her York nemesis memorably in Saturday’s Irish Champion Stakes, this insatiable five-year-old phenomenon will keep her male companions in the shadows for as long as she wants to continue.

- TS

Search For A Song powers to Irish Leger repeat

Search For A Song landed back-to-back renewals of the Comer Group International Irish St Leger at the Curragh, as former champion apprentice Oisin Orr won the biggest race of his career.

It was a different story to 12 months ago, as while Search For A Song was in front a mile out on that occasion under Chris Hayes, this time Orr had her switched off and was the last to challenge deep inside the final furlong.

Andrea Atzeni must have felt confident as he hit the front on Roger Varian’s Ebor winner Fujaira Prince, with everything else seemingly in trouble.

Orr had yet to fully ask for everything on the filly, though, who had not won since her famous success last year, although she had run an eyecatching race when not beaten far by Magical in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in July.

Search For A Song powered home under Oisin Orr
Search For A Song powered home under Oisin Orr (PA)

When her stamina began to kick in close home, it seemed inevitable that the 7-1 chance would get up and in the end she was a comfortable winner.

It capped a memorable day for Dermot Weld, who also took the Prix Vermeille with Tarnawa in Paris.

Weld, who trained the last back-to-back Leger winner in Vinnie Roe, said: “It’s been a special day, especially when you win your ninth St Leger.

“I had one horse win four back-to-back (Vinnie Roe), Vintage Crop won it twice and now she has, too.

“I’d trained her for the day for a long time, I also wanted to get that Group One over a mile and a quarter (black type) into her so people didn’t think she was just a staying mare.

“You saw what the filly that beat her, Magical, did (in the Irish Champion Stakes) so I was quietly confident she’d win today.”

He went on: “I thought it was a lovely ride from Oisin Orr, he’s only 23 the other day but he switched her off beautifully and I was confident turning for home that we’d win.

“He gets horses to relax very well. I need to be very fair to Chris Hayes as he rode her beautifully last year too, they all have their own talents. I don’t really have a number one but Oisin rides most of them, I do accept that. I think he has wonderful hands and he fills horses with confidence.

“When you win the Vermeille and the Leger on the same day with two fillies when you train 100 horses, which is a great number in Ireland these days – yes you still get a big kick.”

Thunder Moon rockets into Classic picture with National strike

Thunder Moon ran out a hugely impressive winner of the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh on just his second start.

Joseph O’Brien’s youngster is now joint-favourite with some bookmakers for next year’s 2000 Guineas, such was the authority of his display.

The Group One contest was robbed of a little of its lustre when Aidan O’Brien’s Royal Ascot winner Battleground was ruled out, but it still had the look of being the best race of its type this season.

There was no doubt Thunder Moon was being asked a big question after just one run – but the way he quickened up suggests he is a colt of the highest order.

Out of luck in the Moyglare half an hour earlier with Pretty Gorgeous, Declan McDonogh was briefly short for room when Master Of The Seas shot clear, but when a gap opened on the rail, Thunder Moon did not need asking twice and he quickly took advantage.

The son of Zoffany, sent of a 15-2 chance, soon put the race to bed and won by a length and a half from the staying-on Wembley, with St Mark’s Basilica third and Master Of The Seas fourth. Lucky Vega endured a troubled passage and was unplaced.

McDonogh said: “He quickened very well. I was just caught on heels a little and had to bite the bullet and sit and suffer, but he showed great heart when he got a bit of room.

Celebration time for Declan McDonogh
Celebration time for Declan McDonogh (PA)

“He was always giving me the feeling that he was going to run them down and he was very impressive. He was impressive the first day, but you never know what you’re beating.

“He’s got a serious will to win because when you are racing and it got tight he just wanted to run by them.”

He added: “The ground was as slow as he wanted, he has a real fast-ground action – fast ground suits him really well. He seemed like he was in third gear all the way.”

Shale gets the better of Pretty Gorgeous as dream season continues for Donnacha O’Brien

Donnacha O’Brien’s Shale got the better of his brother Joseph’s Pretty Gorgeous in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.

The two fillies have clashed three times now this season, with Shale currently holding the upper hand with two victories to one.

Pretty Gorgeous was sent off the 11-10 favourite having comprehensively outpointed Shale when they last met in the Debutante Stakes.

Shale (9-2) had two and a half lengths to find with Pretty Gorgeous, but was always in the right place under Ryan Moore.

Declan McDonogh had Pretty Gorgeous close enough if she was good enough and the two of them had a real battle inside the final furlong.

But try as she might Pretty Gorgeous could not get past, and Shale provided her young trainer with another Group One at such an early stage of his career.

A daughter of Galileo, Shale was cut to 12-1 from 20s for next year’s 1000 Guineas by Betfair.

“It was a lovely performance. She was one of the first off the bridle and at halfway I didn’t think she was going to do anything, but she found plenty for pressure,” said O’Brien.

“She was always a nice filly, but wasn’t one we thought would be capable of winning a Moyglare at the start of the year – she’s kept progressing the whole way.

“Her last run was good and Joseph’s filly is very classy, they are two very good fillies.”

O’Brien – who has won Group Ones in Ireland, Britain and France this year, his first with a licence – added: “Speaking to Ryan it will either be the Fillies’ Mile or France (for the Prix Marcel Boussac) next. It’s not been a bad first year!

“Fancy Blue ran very well in the Matron on Saturday, I wasn’t deflated she got beat – I probably shouldn’t have run in hindsight because I expected the ground to be soft but the rain never came. I thought she did very well to finish third.”

Glass Slippers adds to top-level haul in Flying Five

Glass Slippers stayed on in determined fashion to add the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh to her Prix de l’Abbaye success of last season.

Kevin Ryan’s filly had chased home Battaash at Goodwood last time out, having finished fifth behind the same horse at Royal Ascot.

She was actually one of the first off the bridle as Nunthorpe runner-up Que Amoro and Keep Busy went at it hammer and tongs from an early stage.

With two furlongs to run Que Amoro was back-pedalling, but the John Quinn-trained Keep Busy was still at the head of affairs with Maid In India and another Quinn runner, Liberty Beach, also in there fighting.

But Tom Eaves was beginning to get a tune out of Glass Slippers (9-2) against the far rail as they approached the final furlong and she hit the front with 100 yards to run. Keep Busy, running in Doreen Tabor’s silks for the first time, was a game second, with Sonaiyla staying on for third.

A’Ali and Make A Challenge, two of the favourites, never threatened to get in a serious blow.

Speaking from his North Yorkshire base, Ryan said: “She’s so tough and genuine, but she has a lot of class.

“She loves it when they go really quick, but the ground was tacky today so she’s done well to cope with that. I’m absolutely delighted.

“Darren Bunyan has done a marvellous job with her the last 48 hours, it’s not easy handing it over to someone else, but he’s produced her in tip-top shape so I’m very thankful to the Curragh and Darren.

“It was Terry Holdcroft’s (owner of Bearstone Stud) decision to miss the Nunthorpe and give her a bit more time and he’s obviously been vindicated.

“She’s an amazing filly, so simple to train and makes my job very easy. She’ll go back for the Abbaye now.”

Eaves said: “She’s been a great filly for everyone involved and has been extremely good to me.

“It’s a great training performance by Kevin and she seems to come right at the back end of the year. It’s a great result for everyone.

“Kevin didn’t rush her and we were pleased after the run at Goodwood that she was heading the right way again.”

Cayenne Pepper too hot for Blandford rivals

Cayenne Pepper was rewarded for a string of consistent efforts with a stylish victory in the Moyglare “Jewels” Blandford Stakes at the Curragh.

Jessica Harrington’s filly had shown smart form as a juvenile and went on to be fourth in the Fillies’ Mile.

This year she had been second in all three of her runs, including the Irish Oaks, but had been beaten at a short price in the Give Thanks Stakes most recently.

Dropped back to 10 furlongs on this occasion, though, Shane Foley always looked in command.

He tracked Amma Grace into the straight before taking up the running over a furlong out and his mount powered through the line to take the Group Two honours by four lengths at 3-1. Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand was a disappointing favourite.

Assistant trainer Kate Harrington said: “That was the true Cayenne Pepper. She got a good tow into the race and was really impressive.

“We had a lot of issues with her in the spring and today was the first day she looked well and strong.

“She’s in the Prix de l’Opera, but I think Alpine Star goes there. She’s got an invite for the QEII at the Keeneland and she could stay over there for the Breeders’ Cup.

“It’s sad that Jon Kelly (owner) wasn’t around to see her, but he’ll be up there looking down on her. He passed away a week after the Oaks. It’s lovely for her to win, but it’s a bit emotional.

“We might go to America with her for Sarah (Kelly to see her, providing everything is OK.s Cup.

“We’ll let the dust settle and see how she is this week.”

There was a British-trained success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Bold Lad” Sprint Handicap, with Richard Fahey’s Mr Lupton lifting the valuable pot.

Fahey’s charge had won a Group Two at the Curragh last May, but had been winless since and largely out of sorts.

He hinted at a return to form last time out when third in the Great St Wilfrid and the well-backed 11-2 favourite streaked clear with a furlong to run.

Lil Grey kept him honest home before fading into third, with Blairmayne running on into second, beaten half a length.

Fahey said: “He’s a wonderful horse. He’d lost his way a bit, but at least it gave him a chance to come back to handicaps and we’re delighted with him – he’s a star.

“All going well the plan is to take him to the Ayr Gold Cup next week. We were going to go straight there, but the prize-money on offer today took over – it was a good prize to win.”

Fahey and Keane then doubled up when Shark One Two (20-1) won the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale Stakes.

It was a fourth winner of the weekend for Keane.

“Talking to Richard he was a little bit bullish and he was right. He quickened up well and you couldn’t be happier,” said Keane.

Sonnyboyliston then defied a 13lb rise in the weights to round off a great weekend for Johnny Murtagh in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Northfields” Handicap, under Billy Lee.

Cadillac speeds to impressive Leopardstown victory

Cadillac showed his rivals a clean pair of heels to run out an impressive victor in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown.

Jessica Harrington’s charge was sent off the 11-8 favourite for the Group Two affair despite being edged out in the Futurity Stakes and settled on the outside by Shane Foley, tracking the pace set by Van Gogh.

Cadillac travelled well throughout the mile heat, and when Foley asked his partner to quicken inside the final furlong, the Lope De Vega colt displayed an electric turn of foot, quickly pulling clear to run out a three-and-a-half-length winner over Van Gogh. Reve De Vol was a further two and three-quarter lengths back in third.

Coral made Cadillac their 8-1 co-favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas, with Betfair cutting him from 33-1 to 12-1 for the Newmarket Classic.

The latter also go 5-1 about his chances for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in the autumn and the trainer’s daughter, Kate, indicated America could be the next port of call.

She said: “You’d have to be delighted with him. You saw the real Cadillac there today and he’s a lovely horse.

“He’s a horse that just goes through the motions at home, you don’t really know how big an engine is in there, but it’s fairly big.

“He didn’t really learn much the first day, but learned a lot the last day and he did it right there today.

“It’s great for the syndicate (Alpha Racing 2020), which we started two years ago and this is the second running of it. We’re going to go forward with it next year and it’s great to have a high-profile horse like this.

“I’d say all being well his next start will probably be in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.”

Monday (right) on her way to victory
Monday (right) on her way to victory (PA)

Monday (12-1) made every yard of the running to claim the Ballylinch Stud Irish EBF Ingabelle Stakes.

Fourth on her only previous run, Seamie Heffernan had his Aidan O’Brien-trained mount sharply away, with better-fancied stablemate and 9-4 favourite More Beautiful settled on her heels.

However, Ryan Moore was pushing the market leader from some way out and it was left to No Speak Alexander to throw down a challenge, but she fell short by three-quarters of a length at the line.

The winner was introduced as a 33-1 shot for next year’s 1000 Guineas by Betfair, and 25-1 by RaceBets, and she could now take a jump up in company.

O’Brien said: “She’s the first foal out of Ballydoyle. She can step into a Group race fairly quick, I’d say.

“She probably learned a lot the first day and learned a good bit more today. I’d say she won’t have any problem stepping up quick.

“The Boussac, Fillies’ Mile, all those races will be open to her.”

Tiger Moth (5-6 favourite) then made it a treble on the day for O’Brien with a clear-cut victory in the Paddy Power ‘Is It 2021 Yet?’ Stakes.

O’Brien also struck gold in the feature Irish Champion Stakes with Magical, and Irish Derby second Tiger Moth brought up the hat-trick with the minimum of fuss, coasting home by four lengths under Ryan Moore.

O’Brien said: “He’s a lovely horse. Obviously his last run was in the Irish Derby.

“We gave him a break, said we’d come back here and maybe have a look at the Melbourne Cup, but he probably won’t get in where he is. He’s 8lb below Santiago.

“I wasn’t sure a mile and a half was his thing and we would have been very happy going back to a mile and a quarter. It was a strong-run mile and a half and we were going to find out today whether he stayed or not.”

Safe Voyage (right) just prevailed for trainer John Quinn
Safe Voyage (right) just prevailed for trainer John Quinn (PA)

Safe Voyage and Sinawann produced a fantastic finish to the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile, with John Quinn’s British raider just grabbing the verdict in a photo.

Colin Keane, who had earlier struck Group One gold with Champers Elysees in the Matron Stakes, had to be at his strongest to get Safe Voyage (4-1) back in front on the line, triumphing by a short head.

He said: “I thought Ronny (Ronan Whelan, Sinawann’s rider) was just after nabbing me, but to be fair to my horse, when the other horse came to him he put his head down and tried very hard.

“He travelled very strong, quickened well and when he did get by him, my lad fought back very bravely.

“He’s been a revelation from winning the premier handicap in Galway to these Group Twos. It’s a brilliant training performance.”

Halimi claimed handicap honours
Halimi claimed handicap honours (PA)

Halimi (18-1) swooped inside the final furlong of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Petingo’ Handicap to collar the gutsy Springbank and repel the late thrust of Shoshone Warrior for Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning.

“I just spoke to the boss and he’s delighted with the horse. He’s a nice progressive type,” said Bolger’s daughter, Una Manning.

“We’re thrilled with him and he’ll go for more of the same. It’s nice to win a big pot like this on Champions Day.”

Murtagh celebrates Group One glory with Champers Elysees

Champers Elysees completed her meteoric rise through the ranks as she gave Johnny Murtagh his first Group One success as a trainer with victory in the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.

The three-year-old won a Curragh handicap on her seasonal bow in June, but after winning a Listed heat at the Galway Festival and a Group Three at Gowran just 10 days ago, Murtagh – who has been enjoying such a fine season – opted to pitch her into top-level company.

Teaming up with Colin Keane for the first time, Champers Elysees was ridden with restraint through the early stages, as Love Locket set the pace and it looked at one point as though the winner’s stablemate Know It All would take the prize before Peaceful took over in the final furlong.

However, Champers Elysees was flying on the outside, sweeping through in the shadow of the post to give Murtagh a memorable triumph.

Peaceful kept on for second, with 9-4 favourite Fancy Blue keeping on for third, just ahead of the Cieren Fallon-ridden Know It All.

Murtagh, who won the race three times in the saddle, said: “It feels great. I’m sick of everyone saying ‘you had such a great career as a jockey’ – that’s in the past and it’s the now I’m worried about.

“It’s been a brilliant year, but to win a Group One on Champions Weekend means everything. That’s why we get up in the morning.

“We believe we have the team to compete in Group Ones and we want to be on this stage.

“I have to say thanks to my wife, my family, as they have been very supportive and to all the staff back at the stables and everybody who supports us, including the owners, through a tricky year.”

He went on: “She was always a good filly and I did think she’d make up into a stakes filly. The amount she has improved is unbelievable.

“She has improved a lot physically and she’s now started to know she’s good. Handicap, Listed, Group Three and now she’s a Group One winner. When those fillies start improving, there is no end to them.

“I was watching both of them and thought Know It All ran a cracker as well, she was there all the way and might have just got outstayed.

“I could see her (Champers Elysees) coming with Fancy Blue and I thought it was going to be a battle, but the way she quickened up in the last 100 yards, Colin said, was very impressive.

“She’s a very good filly.”

Murtagh could now head to Newmarket with Champers Elysees, and a trip to the Breeders’ Cup meeting will also be under consideration.

He added: “I don’t know where next as this was the main plan. I suppose the Sun Chariot in Newmarket is there, it’s fillies only again and I wouldn’t mind staying in with the fillies.

“There is also a chance to go over to the Breeders’ Cup Mile. We’ll sit down, enjoy tonight and then make a plan about where to go next.

It was a red letter day for Johnny Murtagh
It was a red letter day for Johnny Murtagh (PA)

“The Breeders’ Cup is an option and a mile around there would suit her down to the ground as she’s quick and has a great turn of foot.

“It’s been a magical season. I’m a very good trainer and I just need better horses!

“When I get them, these are the results. It’s very hard to source horses in Ireland, but when we do I’m not behind the door in telling people that we are able to do the business once we get the right horse.”

Mulrennan seeking Group One gold with Que Amoro

Paul Mulrennan is relishing the opportunity to bid for Group One glory aboard Que Amoro in the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.

The Michael Dods-trained filly is well fancied for the first of four top-level prizes on offer on the second afternoon of Irish Champions Weekend, having pushed star sprinter Battaash all the way in the Nunthorpe at York.

Que Amoro looked likely to sidestep this weekend’s five-furlong contest, but with a recent change to Covid-19 protocols meaning British-based jockeys are now allowed to ride without having to quarantine for two weeks, she was given the green light to travel to Ireland.

Mulrennan said: “I was delighted when the quarantine rules changed – I’m very much look forward to riding her on Sunday.

“She’s come out of York very well. It was a hell of a run in the Nunthorpe – I’ve not seen many horses get Battaash off the bridle like she did, so it was a great effort.

“If she can reproduce that sort of performance this weekend, I think she’s the one they’ve all got to beat.”

Que Amoro is one of seven British challengers in a field of 15 runners, with Simon and Ed Crisford’s A’Ali, Kevin Ryan’s Glass Slippers and the John Quinn-trained pair of Keep Busy and Liberty Beach also part of the raiding party.

The home team is headed by Denis Hogan’s Make A Challenge, who has won four of his six starts this season and is five from eight overall at the Curragh.

The Moyglare Stud Stakes appears likely to be dominated by the O’Brien family, with Aidan and his two sons Joseph and Donnacha all saddling major contenders.

The hot favourite is Joseph O’Brien’s Pretty Gorgeous following her impressive display in the Debutante Stakes over the course and distance three weeks ago.

“I’m looking forward to running her – she’s a very exciting filly,” said the Piltown handler.

“She couldn’t have been any more impressive last time in very heavy going. Obviously she handled that, but she’s also won on better ground, so she’s versatile ground-wise.

“I’m really looking forward to the weekend for her.”

Pretty Gorgeous is reopposed by Donnacha O’Brien’s Debutante runner-up Shale and Aidan O’Brien’s Debutante third Mother Earth.

Donnacha O’Brien said: “It will be tough to beat Joseph’s filly, but I’m hoping that on nicer ground we can get a bit closer and possibly even put it up to her.”

Aidan O’Brien, who also runs recent Flame of Tara Stakes winner Divinely, said: “Mother Earth ran a nice race in the Debutante. We were feeling our way up to seven furlongs and didn’t want to boldly expose her. We were happy with the run and hope she might progress.

“Divinely is like her sister Found, who was able to compete at seven and was very comfortable when she stepped up to a mile – she’s very likeable in everything she does.”

Classic honours are up for grabs in the Comer Group Irish St Leger, for which Twilight Payment is the likely favourite for Joseph O’Brien, after landing both the Vintage Crop Stakes and the Curragh Cup over the course and distance this season.

O’Brien said: “He’s seven, but he ran a career-best last time on figures.

“He’ll probably need to do so again, but if he does, it puts him right in the mix. We’re excited about running him and we’re hopeful of a good performance.”

Aidan O’Brien saddles last year’s Irish Derby hero Sovereign, who was last seen chasing home Enable in the King George, as well as three-year-old filly Passion.

Dermot Weld’s defending champion Search For A Song, Jessica Harrington’s Barbados, the Willie Mullins-trained Micro Manage and Luke Comer’s Raa Atoll complete the home team, with Roger Varian’s Ebor winner Fujaira Prince flying the flag for Britain.

Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotting mare Magic Wand sets the standard on ratings in the Group Two Moyglare “Jewels” Blandford Stakes.

So far this season the daughter of Galileo has won the Lanwades Stud Stakes, placed fourth in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and finished fifth in the Nassau at Goodwood.

O’Brien said: “It’s a nice race to break her into the autumn – she’ll probably go on her travels after this.

“We’re not sure how far we can go. We think we can go to Hong Kong and America, but we have to do the quarantine beforehand. They would be the two big ones on her agenda.”

Jessica Harrington has a strong hand, with both One Voice and Cayenne Pepper bringing top-level form to the table.

Joseph O’Brien also fires a couple of bullets in Bolleville and Thunder Nights, and said of the latter: “She won at the Curragh last time, beating Albigna, and won very well.

“She’s a filly who has just improved and improved all season. We’re really looking forward to running her.”