LONGINES IRISH CHAMPIONS WEEKEND
DAY ONE LEOPARDSTOWN
Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore opened their account on Longines Irish Champions Weekend when claiming the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes with the impressive Auguste Rodin. The son of Deep Impact showed real resilience in the closing stages to complement his maiden victory at Naas in July and see off the Joseph O’Brien-trained Caroline Street by a length and a half.
Charlie and Mark Johnston enjoyed the first British-based success of the weekend as I’m A Gambler and Tom Marquand roared to victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Sovereign Path Handicap. The lion’s share of the €150,000 went to the Johnston father and son training partnership with the three-year-old gelding by No Nay Never returning to winning ways having been always prominent and taking up the lead inside the final furlong. It was a British-based 1-2 with Safe Voyage a half-length back in second for John Quinn, while the Ado McGuinness-trained Current Option took the bronze medal on this occasion.
For the second year in a row the Irish Champion Stakes was a World Pool event and the €1,000,000 highlight was worthy of any global stage as the Aidan O’Brien-trained Luxembourg proved his excellence by seeing off a high-class field. Luxembourg went into the race as one of the most unexposed three-year-olds that O’Brien has ever run in the Irish Champion Stakes and after a long lay-off as a result of suffering an injury in the English 2000 Guineas, when finishing third after sustaining serious interference, he had a rushed preparation to win at Group 3 level on his comeback last month. In seeing off Onesto today and passing the line half a length in front, Luxembourg left Leopardstown a true champion. It was further testament of the masterful efforts of his all-conquering trainer, who was winning the race for the 11th time.
Reflecting on the famous victory O’Brien, as is his way, deflected praise in many directions.
“It was unbelievable from a lot of people,” related the Ballydoyle trainer. “Killian rides him every day, Stephen rides his lead horse, Derek looks after him, Jamie is in charge of him, Wayne rides him in all his work, Ryan gave him an incredible ride.”
A photo finish had to split Thunder Kiss and Duke De Sessa in the Group 3 Paddy Power Stakes but that didn’t impact Newton Anner Stud, who owned both and were in jubilant form as the latter, trained by Dermot Weld, got the verdict by a short head. There was only a further head back to the Paddy Twomey-trained Beamish in third but it was a good start to the weekend for the Rosewell House maestro.
Paddy Twomey’s remarkable season hit another high as 16/1 shot Pearls Galore made all the running to win the Group 1 Coolmore America Justify Matron Stakes. The five-year-old daughter of Invincible Spirit had the fancied duo of Saffron Beach and Homeless Songs chasing behind as well as the game Tenebrism but last year’s narrow runner-up proved much too good adding to her Group 2 triumph earlier this season. As well as being a second winner at the highest level for Twomey after La Petite Coco’s Pretty Polly Stakes triumph earlier this year, and a fourth for his red-hot pilot Lee, it was equally in the Limerick jockey’s pursuit of a first championship as he moves to within one of Colin Keane.
After not enjoying the clearest of runs on Vadeni in the Irish Champion Stakes, Christophe Soumillon made his trip to Ireland a profitable one in the Group 2 Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile aboard the impressive Jadoomi. Always prominent under the French-based Belgian, Jadoomi sprinted clear in the closing stages to record a four-length victory for Simon and Ed Crisford. The 9/4 joint favourite was maintaining an impressive unbeaten sequence this season when taking home the €200,000 contest.
The concluding Irish EBF Stallion Farms Petingo Handicap went to Moracana, who is trained and was bred by Sheila Lavery, holding on by a nose in a finish that provided the perfect denouement to a glorious day of exhilarating fare.
DAY 2 CURRAGH
The first Group 1 honours on day two of Longines Irish Champions Weekend were claimed in emphatic fashion by the John Quinn-trained Highfield Princess in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Flying Five Stakes. The five-year-old could be called a winner a long way from home in the high-class €400,000 five furlong contest as she travelled smoothly under Jason Hart and pulverised her rivals.
Group 1 winner Above The Curve continued her fine season for Joseph O’Brien and the Coolmore partners when landing the Group 2 Moyglare Jewels Blandford Stakes under Ryan Moore. Unseen since winning the Group 1 Prix Alary at ParisLongchamp in May, Above The Curve was produced in prime condition by O’Brien to see off a stellar field with Insinuendo a neck back in second.
There was a shock winner to the opening race as 50/1 shot Dexter Belle scored in the €150,000 Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Bold Lad’ Sprint Handicap. It was an inspired ride from Andrew Slattery, who was making most of the opportunity which arose as a result of Hollie Doyle being redirected to the rescheduled Doncaster fixture. Slattery partnered the son of Ajaya to a neck victory over No More Porter in second and Mr Wagyu was a further head back in third, while Laugh A Minute was only a nose behind in fourth.
On paper it was going to take something special to beat Meditate in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes and the Dermot Weld-trained Tahiyra produced a breathtaking display to wow the Curragh crowds. The Galway maiden winner, carrying the colours of His Highness Aga Khan, whose family breeding operation began 100 years ago, looked like she might have to settle for second behind the Albany Stakes heroine but when the ultra-cool Chris Hayes asked her to pick up, the daughter of Siyouni scooted clear for a two-and-a-quarter-length win.
Joseph O’Brien completed a double on the card when Al Riffa showed his versatility to claim the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes and give his young rider Dylan Browne McMonagle a first Group 1 win in the process. Following the earlier win of stable companion Above The Curve, Al Riffa was rewarding connections who opted to supplement the son of Wootton Bassett for the €400,000 colts’ contest. Al Riffa was a course and distance winner on good ground that good to firm in places ground last month but wasn’t in anyway inconvenienced by the rain-sodden going at HQ today as he stayed on strongly in the final 100 yards to beat the Donnacha O’Brien-trained Proud And Regal by a length and a quarter.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Browne McMonagle. “He was very straightforward from the gates. Jumped, travelled good. He loved the soft conditions. I was really happy the whole way through.”
On the day Moyglare Stud celebrated the 50th running of the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh, the famous owner/breeding operation watched their champion stayer, Kyprios add the Comer Group International Irish St Leger to his big race haul. Moyglare owner, Eva Maria Bucher Haefner was in attendance to appreciate the four-year-old son of Galileo maintain his unbeaten run this season and add the final Irish Classic of the year under Ryan Moore to his earlier victories in the Goodwood Cup, Ascot Gold Cup, Saval Beg Levmoss Stakes and Vintage Crop Stakes so far this year.
While the Maynooth team were enjoying a third Irish St Leger in four years, it was a first for Aidan O’Brien in five years since Flag Of Honour obliged in 2018. The champion trainer said: “He’s very tough. He’s very relaxed. He’s always only in the gear that you want. Ryan gave him a great ride. Patrick at home was very happy with him, and Matt. Wayne rides him in his work. Christopher leads him. He’s a great horse to have.”
“We’ll see what everybody thinks and what way the ground is going to be (in ParisLongchamp for the Arc). He is only four and for a stayer he’s very young. As we saw today, he only does the minimum so it’s very hard to know what’s in there really.”
Punchestown – Tuesday, September 13 (First Race 2pm)
Sligo – Wednesday, September 14 (First Race 2pm)
Naas – Thursday, September 15 (First Race 2pm)
Downpatrick – Friday, September 16 (First Race 1.50pm)
Dundalk – Friday, September 16 (First Race 5.25pm)
Gowran Park – Saturday, September 17 (First Race 1.35pm)
Navan – Saturday, September 17 (First Race 2.35pm)
Listowel – Sunday, September 18 (First Race 2.10pm)