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Thundering Nights denies Santa Barbara in Pretty Polly thriller

Thundering Nights just edged out Santa Barbara in a tremendous finish to the Alwasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh.

In action in America at Belmont just 23 days ago when beaten a nose in a Grade Two by Mean Mary, Thundering Nights was taking her form to a new level.

Santa Barbara, meanwhile, was running in her third Group One of the season and having been the beaten favourite in both the 1000 Guineas and Oaks she displayed the talent that had Aidan O’Brien speaking so highly of her in the spring.

The improving Epona Plays set out to make the running and was only headed on entering the final furlong.

It was there that Shane Crosse decided to commit on Thundering Nights (16-5) and she went over a length clear, but Ryan Moore had been biding his time on Santa Barbara and she gradually hit top gear, drawing level with Thundering Nights.

The two were locked together inside the final 100 yards – but in the final few strides Joseph O’Brien’s four-year-old, who was conceding 12lb to her younger rival, just began to pull away and got the verdict by a neck.

The favourite Cayenne Pepper was two and a half lengths away in third, as Crosse claimed the second Group One success of his career following the victory of Pretty Gorgeous in the Fillies’ Mile last season.

“She’s a great mare, she’s very tough and every time you ask her a question she rises to the occasion,” said O’Brien.

“She’s never run a bad race really and I’m delighted for Shapoor Mistry, the owner. I’m very proud of her.

“She always has a bit of a look around when she goes to the front and she did that again today, but when the other one came to her she really fought back.

“Broome just nabbed her here one day on the line, but she had an opportunity to fight back today and she did that.

“In America she would have won in another stride, the tight track caught her out a little bit as it was her first time around the bends over there.

“She had to spend a week after the race over there so she’s only been back a couple of weeks. She trained there for a week, then shipped straight back and came straight here. She has a great constitution.

“She has options back in America, like the Beverly D., and she also has the likes of the Nassau and Matron.

“She’s a Group One winner now so she’s a very exciting broodmare prospect no matter what happens.”

O’Brien added: “Shane deserved that because over the last couple of days a few things didn’t go well for him.

“That’s the way it goes in racing and you just have to remain confident and keep doing what you are doing. That’s what he’s done and he was rewarded.”

Aidan O’Brien was also pleased with the effort of Santa Barbara.

“I’m delighted she ran well, I was very happy with her,” he said.

“After Epsom we were hoping it was the trip and the ground and it looks like she wants a mile or a mile-and-a-quarter as she’s not short of pace.

“She did everything right, Joseph’s filly was very unlucky in America the last day and she’s tough. When she got to her she didn’t surrender and his horses are running well.

“We were thinking of going to the Nassau with Joan Of Arc and maybe to split them up this filly could have the option of going to the Belmont Oaks in a couple of weeks time. That’s one option.

“She’s a big powerful filly and hopefully she’ll be there for next year as well.”

Fev Rover camp eye choice of Group One targets

Fev Rover has either the Irish 1,000 Guineas or the Prix Saint-Alary on her agenda after her big run at Newmarket.

Richard Fahey’s filly outran odds of 22-1 to be beaten only a length and a quarter into third by Mother Earth in Sunday’s 1000 Guineas.

Taking a keen hold from the stalls, Fev Rover disputed the lead for the first five furlongs before crossing the line a neck behind runner-up Saffron Beach.

Nick Bradley’s racing partnership owns the horse, and he was in attendance alongside a clutch of fellow shareholders.

“Fev Rover ran a great race,” he said.

“We decided we wanted to be handy, because there didn’t look to be much pace in the race.

“She was a little keen early doors, but we had her where we wanted her.

“She looked like she was going to drop away, but then she picked up out of the dip and ran really well.”

The daughter of Gutaifan had previously enjoyed both Group and Listed successes, having gained black type form in Sandown’s Star Stakes last season before taking the Prix du Calvados at Deauville.

Bradley has another tilt at Group One glory pencilled in this month, with both the Irish Classic at the Curragh and ParisLongchamp’s Prix Saint-Alary under consideration.

“I haven’t spoken to Richard (Fahey) this morning,” he said.

“But we’ll probably go for the Irish Guineas or the Alary next.”

Should the latter race be targeted, Bradley’s filly is likely to cross paths with another who did his silks proud at Newmarket on Sunday.

Mystery Angel gave rookie trainer George Boughey his highest-profile winner to date when taking the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes under Ben Curtis.

The length-and-three-quarters victory signified a change in fortunes for the daughter of Kodi Bear, who has been narrowly beaten three times in Listed contests.

Her efforts in the Silver Tankard Stakes at Pontefract, the Montrose Stakes at Newmarket and the Prix Rose de Mai all fell just short of the mark, with her subsequent run in the Prix Francois Mathet at Saint-Cloud ending in a fifth-placed finish.

“She’s been really unlucky,” said Bradley.

“From when Frankie (Dettori) rode her at Newmarket onwards, she probably should have won all those races.

Mystery Angel ridden by Ben Curtis wins the Betfair Pretty Polly Stakes during 1000 Guineas Day, part of the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket Racecourse
Mystery Angel and Ben Curtis won the Betfair Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Things didn’t quite go our way in each circumstance for different reasons, but yesterday she showed everybody how good she was.

“We knew she was that good, but the last one kind of knocked our confidence a little bit.

“She’s obviously a very good filly, and Ben (Curtis) gave her a great ride – the tactics were to take to the front and make it a stamina test.”

Next week’s Musidora Stakes at York is a possibility, but Bradley is more inclined to target the Prix Saint-Alary and a possible clash with Fev Rover.

“She (Mystery Angel) ran a great race and she will probably go for the Alary next,” he said.

“We’ll look at the Musidora, but it’ll probably be the Group One Alary in France.”