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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.”

Shane Crosse thrilled to get Group One on the board with Pretty Gorgeous

Feelings of frustration turned to ones of joy for jockey Shane Crosse, who celebrated the first Group One success of his career aboard Pretty Gorgeous in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.

Having been forced to miss the winning ride on Galileo Chrome in last month’s St Leger following a positive test for Covid-19 before travelling from Ireland, the 19-year-old enjoyed a deserved change of fortune thanks to the Joseph O’Brien-trained daughter of Lawman.

Though Crosse will now be dreaming of glory in next year’s 1000 Guineas back over course and distance aboard Pretty Gorgeous, he admits that watching Galileo Chrome triumph on Town Moor from the comfort of his own home was tough to take.

Crosse said: “Of course it hurt and I had a great partnership with the horse. To be sat at home on your own watching it on the television with no one around you was a bit of a head wrecker.

“I’m delighted the horse won though and for Tom (Marquand) who is a lovely guy. Hopefully I can look forward to him next year.

“This takes a lot of the edge off what happened. I suppose no one would wish it on their worst enemy, but I was the unfortunate one.

“Luckily there wasn’t a hair turned on me which was probably the main thing, but I missed out on the Leger. Hopefully there are more big days ahead and this has topped things off.

“She has loads of speed and I wouldn’t be going past the mile so hopefully that (1000 Guineas) is the aim.”

While the winning margin may have only been half a length, Crosse was confident that Pretty Gorgeous was always doing enough, despite not being totally at ease on the track.

He added: “Coming down the hill she probably didn’t handle it as well as most fillies do, but she is just so big and plenty green still.

“I found myself in a pocket between Ryan (Moore), but once I got down out of the dip and met the rising ground she just levelled off and she was very game. I think the best filly won.

“I felt I was there plenty soon and it is a lonely half-furlong there, but I felt if I wasn’t going to go when I did something might have flashed by. She had her ears back though and she was all over them.”

With racing continuing to take place behind closed doors, being greeted by near empty grandstands following such victories is now accepted as normal – but the moment was not lost on Crosse.

He said: “It’s unbelievable, it has just flashed by there. I can’t believe it has just happened.

“There is no crowd or atmosphere, but that doesn’t make a difference once you are on the horse’s back. I’m going to take it in like a normal day.”

To succeed at the highest level requires backing from the best, and Crosse is thankful to have exactly that from former Classic-winning rider turned trainer O’Brien.

He said: “Without Joseph and the team of horses we have I couldn’t do it. Especially this filly today as she has already given me a few great days and she has now just made this the biggest one of my life.

“She will be a three-year-old and her best days are ahead of her, I hope.”

Pretty Gorgeous sitting pretty in Fillies’ Mile

Pretty Gorgeous toughed it out at Newmarket to give Joseph O’Brien his second victory in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile as a trainer.

Ridden by Shane Crosse – who should have been aboard the yard’s St Leger winner Galileo Chrome last month, only to miss the ride after a positive test for Covid-19 – the Lawman filly got the better of Indigo Girl by half a length.

Pretty Gorgeous had missed her own intended target last weekend, as she was caught up in the contaminated feed issue that led to the O’Brien family runners being withdrawn at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

The chief threat came from John Gosden’s Indigo Girl, winner of both her previous outings including an impressive success in the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster.

Indigo Girl made ground seamlessly from the rear – but Pretty Gorgeous, who had been closer to the pace, then quickened away.

It was to Indigo Girl’s credit that she made a second challenge, but she could only get to within half a length of the 5-2 favourite, with 50-1 chance Snowfall in third.

O’Brien had previously taken the race in 2018 with Iridessa.

He said: “It’s fantastic and I thought Shane gave the filly a great ride.

“He was patient on her and committed when he had to. Shane is a young man, but he is a very good rider – strong and cool in a finish, and he doesn’t panic. She was fighting them off at the line.

“She has got a great constitution. She went to France last weekend and came back. The lad that rides her out at home said she had taken the journey well and was in good shape, and all credit goes to them as they said she would come here with every chance.

“I was quite worried myself and I had a good conversation with Mr (John) Oxley during the week and he was keen enough that if she was in good shape that we would take the chance and let her run.

“The way it worked out the French race looked a tough race and the ground was nicer here. She has won her Group One and whether that was here or France, I wouldn’t be fussy. It has worked out well in the end.”

Pretty Gorgeous (second left) saw off all-comers at Newmarket
Pretty Gorgeous (second left) saw off all-comers at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He went on: “She is an exciting filly going forwards. I would think (the 1000 Guineas) is the obvious target now. She has the options of the Breeders’ Cup, but we will probably decide to put her away for the season.

“She is a Lawman, so she would not be bred to go very far. I think Lawman’s can get 10 furlongs and I see her more as an eight to 10-furlong filly rather than an Oaks-type filly at this stage.”

Of Indigo Girl, Gosden said: “It was a great run and I’m very happy with her.

“Her mother won the French St Leger and her sister won a Group One over a mile and a half. She will be trained more for a mile and a quarter and middle-distance races. She won’t be trained as a Guineas filly.”

Shane Crosse to miss Leger ride on Galileo Chrome following positive Covid-19 test

Shane Crosse will miss the ride on Galileo Chrome in Saturday’s Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster after testing positive for Covid-19.

One of the leading apprentice jockeys in Ireland, Crosse was due to partner Joseph O’Brien’s progressive colt in the final Classic of the British Flat season on Town Moor, as well as his stablemate State Of Rest in the bet365 Champagne Stakes.

Crosse had also been booked for some high-profile mounts on the second afternoon of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh on Sunday, but will now have to sit out the action after returning a positive test ahead of travelling to the UK.

Dr Jennifer Pugh, senior medical officer for the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, said in a statement on Friday afternoon: “Shane was completely asymptomatic and was very surprised to learn of the test result. He was not unwell and hadn’t engaged in any high-risk behaviour. He is now in isolation for 14 days and has worked with us on identifying his close contacts.

“We have been in communication with Public Health today, notified them of the test, and they are happy with the steps we have taken. It means that those who have shared a car with him, and those who live with Shane, have been informed they must also self-isolate for 14 days. As directed by Public Health, contact tracing commenced on Friday morning and testing will be carried out today of all close contacts of the index case.

“We have been prepared for this and have responded accordingly, and this case reinforces just why we have had such strict protocols in place since racing resumed on June 8. These measures ensure that social distancing is taking place at racecourses, and face masks and coverings are mandatory both inside and outside.

“Shane is employed by trainer Joseph O’Brien and we have been working with Joseph this morning to provide contact tracing and testing of Shane’s close contacts. Joseph’s horses will run today as planned, but as a precaution these horses will be taken care of by staff from other yards.

“Public Health are satisfied with our protocols and the measures we have taken, and for racing to continue under strict protocols behind closed doors.”

Crosse rode at Navan on Thursday and at Galway and Cork earlier in the week, but Dr Pugh confirmed it was not a necessary requirement for all jockeys riding at those meetings to be tested.

She added: “The only people that need to be tested are Shane’s close contacts, so his family, the people he’s travelled to the races with and so on – the advice has been clear on that throughout.”

Padraig Beggy and Emmet McNamara are due to travel from Ireland to ride in the St Leger after being booked to partner Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Dawn Patrol and Mythical respectively.

Pugh confirmed the pair are “unaffected” by Crosse’s positive test and free to make the trip across the Irish Sea.