Posts

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.”

Davison sights set on Flying Five for Mooneista

Mooneista is “100 per cent” on course for her second Group One assignment in the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh.

Jack Davison reports his vastly-improved filly to be thriving since her Sapphire Stakes victory last month, and ready to return over course and distance on Longines Irish Champions Weekend.

Mooneista is likely to face Gustavus Weston again on Sunday – among plenty more sprinting luminaries – having beaten Joe Murphy’s stable star into second in the Sapphire.

County Meath trainer Davison is confident of continued progress, however, from his three-year-old – who has already had one shot at the top level this summer, outrunning big odds to finish a creditable sixth in heavy ground at Royal Ascot in the Commonwealth Cup.

“Everything is 100 per cent,” he said, in anticipation of the Flying Five.

“We’re well on track and really looking forward to running her.

“The (Sapphire Stakes) form looks good, and she won really well the last day.

“So I wouldn’t be afraid to reoppose anything that ran against us in the Sapphire. We’re looking forward to seeing what else turns up, but we’ll be ready to go.”

Mooneista managed just a maiden win from seven attempts as a juvenile – although she did also finish second at Listed level.

She has been a revelation this season, as a Listed and most recently Group Two winner, rising more than a stone and a half in the ratings.

Davison was always convinced she would be capable of much better as she matures, however.

“I did really think that she was going to improve with age, because the pedigree would suggest that,” he said.

“Physically, she was only a handful last year – so I kind of thought she would grow as well, and the stronger they get with sprinters they tend to get a bit quicker as well.

“I thought she had the pace to make up into a black-type sprinter as a three-year-old, but she’s just shown me something extra this year.

“I think a big part of it is she needs a good gallop – the better the race, the better she’ll be, and she’s got her confidence now and knows how to race and finish.”

Gustavus Weston (left) may be among Mooneista's opponents again at the Curragh
Gustavus Weston (left) may be among Mooneista’s opponents again at the Curragh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mooneista has clearly begun to show the benefit of her experience.

Davison added: “I just think sprinting takes a bit of practice, and I would put the extra improvement down to just her knowing exactly what to do now.

“I suppose last year she was just kind of figuring it out, and we got the win, and she got her black type – but I never really felt she had got it together yet.

“She has this year, and she’s shaping really well.”

Mooneista has shown she can be adaptable to ground variations

“She’s versatile,” said Davison.

Jack Davison hopes to have Colin Keane available again to ride Mooneista next week
Jack Davison hopes to have Colin Keane available again to ride Mooneista next week (PA)

“Over five, even if it came up heavy, it wouldn’t be ideal because she has pace – but I’d (still) be running her.

“She doesn’t want extremes really, but she’s going to run either way. She’s not likely to get an extreme of ground – most suitable for her would be easy side of good, in an ideal world.”

The hope is that dual champion jockey Colin Keane will be available to ride again, having clicked with Mooneista last time, but Davison is mindful that he could yet be claimed to ride Ger Lyons’ Frenetic if that old rival is in opposition again.

“We’ll just have to sit and wait a little bit,” he said.

“But I really hope we do have Colin, because he’s in a league of his own at the minute, and he’s really helped my filly.”

Irish Champions Weekend to welcome crowds of 4,000 on both days

Leopardstown and the Curragh will welcome back crowds of 4,000 for each day of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend.

Horse Racing Ireland confirmed the increase in capacity for the high-profile meetings on September 11 and 12 in a statement on Thursday afternoon, which follows Tuesday’s Government announcement of a relaxation in Covid-19 restrictions.

During this week’s briefing from Taoiseach Micheal Martin, details emerged stipulating attendance up to 75 per cent of capacity would be permitted at outdoor events from next Monday, September 6.

HRI will plan for a 50 per cent limit from that date in outdoor spaces on course and 60 per cent of indoor capacity, the latter restricted to those able to provide evidence of their Digital Covid Vaccine Cert (DCC) as fully vaccinated individuals.

In accordance with the Irish Government’s roadmap, those limits are set to rise to 100 per cent if the planned lifting of all restrictions comes into effect on October 22.

In the meantime, both Leopardstown and the Curragh will next week stage a “mixed outdoor event with access to the indoor spaces, but with proof of a vaccine required for those consuming food and beverage indoors”.

Listowel’s Harvest Festival, from September 19-2, will be subject to a limit of 2,000 per day and it will be an “outdoor-only event”.

That figure too, however, is a significant increase on the current numbers – which are capped at 500, although 1,000 were permitted through the gates exclusively at both the Galway Festival and for a Government pilot event when the Curragh hosted the Irish Derby in June.

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh described the return of crowds as an “essential ingredient” racing has had to get by without during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “It has been a very difficult 18 months for everybody in society, and racing can be proud of the way it has come through it.

“However, without racegoers, racing has been missing one of its essential ingredients.

“Like many industries, there is still much work to do, but there is now real progress and forward steps to normality. Welcoming back racegoers in measured but increasing numbers is one of those steps – and from Monday, Irish racecourses will be free to use 50 per cent of their capacity to allow racegoers back on the track in real numbers.

“And as we know, this good news comes just in time for some of our most important race meetings – the Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown and the Curragh on September 11 and September 12, and Listowel’s Harvest Festival, which begins on Sunday September 19.

“I would like to thank all our customers for their patience and look forward to race meetings becoming just that again – a place where racegoers can meet each other in a safe environment and enjoy our great sport.”

Tickets for both days of Irish Champions Weekend will go on sale on Friday, September 3 to members of the public who have registered their interest in advance. The remainder will go on general sale on Monday, September 6.

Tickets for Listowel are already on sale.

Prix Vermeille beckons for Snowfall

Aidan O’Brien’s Snowfall will head next to the Group One Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp as she seeks to continue her flawless three-year-old campaign.

The Deep Impact filly has been all-conquering this term, taking the Group Three Musidora Stakes before striding to a memorably emphatic 16-length victory in the Oaks at Epsom in June.

She then won the Irish Oaks at the Curragh by eight and a half lengths, and last month added the Yorkshire Oaks.

Snowfall’s next assignment is likely to be in France – bidding to give O’Brien a first success in the  Prix Vermeille, with stablemate Love also a possible runner in the same contest.

“At the moment we’re going to the Prix Vermeille with Snowfall,” said the Ballydoyle trainer.

“Love is also in that and is also in the Blandford (at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend). We’re kind of letting Love sit there at the moment, without putting her under any pressure, then we can put her in to wherever.

“She’s sitting there for all those big races next weekend, but she doesn’t have to go anywhere.

“She’s a filly we’re trying to keep for nice ground, and obviously the season is long and goes right into December.”

Love was last seen finishing third in the Juddmonte International at York’s Ebor meeting, six and a half lengths behind the brilliant Mishriff – before which she was also third in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Love will run only when conditions suit her
Love will run only when conditions suit her (David Davies/PA)

“The Juddmonte was a bit of a messy race for her,” added O’Brien.

“She’s a filly that likes a high tempo, and we felt we didn’t get that either in the King George or at York.

“She’s a very low action and puts her head out and tries very hard. Usually with those type of horses, it’s very hard for them to get out of the soft ground.

“We want to mind her and will only run her when it suits her.”

O’Brien also provided an update on plans for Santa Barbara, who has collected two Grade One wins in America this summer – in the Belmont Oaks and the Beverly D. Stakes.

“We’re very happy with her – she’s really starting to get it together,” he said.

“She obviously loves nice ground and she loves a flat, fast track.

Santa Barbara is a dual Grade One winner in America this summer
Santa Barbara is a dual Grade One winner in America this summer (PA)

“She’s a great traveller – that’s what she’s always shown us here.

“She’s in good form, and the plan is that she might go away for a racecourse gallop and then she might go back to Keeneland for a fillies’ race over nine furlongs – that is about four or five weeks away.

“We obviously have an eye on the Breeders’ Cup with her, and we just want to get a run into her between then and now.”

On English soil, O’Brien is considering sending a handful of runners to Doncaster for the Cazoo St Leger.

“We have plenty of possibilities,” he said.

“We have a lot of those horses that ran in (the Great Voltigeur at) York, and I’d imagine that is where it’s going to come from.

“We have the horse Frankie (Dettori) rode (Sir Lucan). We could have three or four in it.”

Point Lonsdale primed for National Stakes

Point Lonsdale will put his unbeaten record on the line in the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend.

The Ballydoyle colt has completed a flawless sequence of four runs and four victories so far, taking a maiden at the Curragh in June and then going on to win the Listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group Three Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown.

A graduation to Group Two level followed in the Futurity Stakes, again at the Curragh, where Point Lonsdale was a comfortable winner once more – by almost five lengths.

Group One company awaits the juvenile on Sunday week.

“He was very impressive the first day at the Curragh – then he went to Ascot, and every day after that he’s never done anything but please,” said trainer Aidan O’Brien.

“He’s very straightforward, (and) everything has gone very well with him.

“He’s a lovely horse. He’s a good mover and he doesn’t mind making the running – we’re delighted to have him really.”

Point Lonsdale is by Australia – who won the Derby, the Irish Derby and the Juddmonte International for O’Brien – and the trainer has noticed a striking similarity between father and son in terms of temperament.

“He’s absolutely the very same as his dad – he was one of those very rare horses that didn’t have any fight or flight response,” he said.

“That’s very rare – and what that means is that when you put him in first gear, he stays in first gear and then goes into second gear if you want him to.

“He doesn’t decide to go into any gear by himself – he’s always waiting to be told what to do.

“It’s a trait that’s very unusual, and that sort of horse always saves (himself) for when you want. When they’re like that and they have the class that he has – and do those fractions – it’s a very serious weapon to have.”

Point Lonsdale’s placid nature means he does not necessarily need a stablemate to smooth him a path through the race – and he could therefore be Ballydole’s sole runner in the National Stakes.

“He’s a horse that’s very happy to stand alone – he’s happy to do his own thing,” added O’Brien.

“If someone is there to help him, fine – but if not, he’s happy to plough his own furrow.”

Elsewhere on the second day of Longines Irish Champions Weekend, O’Brien has another juvenile Group One hope in the shape of Prettiest in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

The Dubawi filly was well beaten in the Phoenix Stakes last time out, but her trainer feels that speed test was not ideal and that a return to seven furlongs could see her at her best.

Amhran Na Bhfiann may be part of Aidan O'Brien's Irish St Leger contingen
Amhran Na Bhfiann may be part of Aidan O’Brien’s Irish St Leger contingent (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

“We ran her in the Phoenix, and it probably wasn’t the right thing and wasn’t fair,” he said.

“The pace was strong early, and we went with the pace, but she’s probably a filly that wants seven furlongs or a mile.

“She’s in good form recently, (and) a strongly-run seven furlongs we think, and hope, will suit her. She seems to have come out of the last race well, and we hope she will leave it behind her.”

O’Brien is likely to have several contenders in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger, with Galileo filly Passion leading the team.

Grand Prix de Paris runner-up Wordsworth may also take his chance alongside 2020 Derby winner Serpentine – while confirmed stayers Santiago and Amhran Na Bhfiann both hold entries.

“Passion has been going there for a good while – she’s had a few runs,” said O’Brien.

“Wordsworth could go back there, and Serpentine could go there. Santiago is a possible, and Amhran Na Bhfiann is a possible.

“We could have a few more than one or two in that, but Passion is the one that’s had her eye on it for a while – and Wordsworth. Serpentine won his maiden around there, so that would be interesting as well.”