As the dust settles on Ireland’s first Classic weekend, we take a look back at the highs, lows and key talking points from some stellar action. There are plenty pointers to be taken for the season from a new Australian sprinter to a pair of surprise Guineas winners.
Shock Guineas Winners
Romanised sprung a 25/1 shock in the 2000 Guineas for Ken Condon and in process entered Condon into the exclusive “classic winning trainer” club! The Holy Roman Emperor colt came from the back of the field in a strongly run contest to collar long-time leader U S Navy Flag In the final 100 yards.
After the race Condon said:
“I’m in a bit of shock and it will be a few days before it sinks in. It’s just amazing to win a classic. It’s all I wanted to do when I entered racing.”
Romanised starting price would indicate that the colt held very little chance of triumphing over some very well touted rivals but a quick glance in the form book will show a second place finish behind Masar in the Group Three Solario Stakes on his final start last season. This run would have undoubtedly given Ken Condon and his owner Robert Ng high hopes of having a productive three-year-old campaign but did they really harbour hopes of Guineas glory?
It would seem the jockey did, during the post-race interview, you could have been forgiven for thinking that Shane “Dusty” Foley had just won the 2000 Guineas on a 6/4 favourite. He was beaming from ear to ear with delight and if you listened you could hear him shout:
“I told you he’d win!”
A trip to Royal Ascot for the St James Palace Stakes is next on the agenda where a re-match with U S Navy Flag looks on the card.
After a surprise winner on Saturday, the 1000 Guineas looked relatively simple, Aidan had two major fancies in the form of Happily and Clemmie. Oh but that would have been far too easy instead, we saw a mini gamble landed on the big imposing filly Alpha Centauri.
The Mastercraftsman Filly came fast and late to beat another Aidan O’Brien trained filly Could It Be Love. This success provided Jessica Harrington with a first classic success, while jockey Colm Donoghue who is no stranger to Classic winners was in the saddle.
Alpha Centauri was one of last season’s leading two-year-olds, with a neck defeat to Different League in the Albany at Royal Ascot the undoubtedly the highlight. Following a disappointing run on seasonal debut when ground conditions were far from ideal the Niarchos family owned filly really appreciated the quicker underfoot surface at the Curragh to win going away.
This gorgeous filly now looks Royal Ascot-bound for a tilt at the Coronation Stakes with Jessica Harrington saying in the aftermath:
“The plan is to go to Ascot for the Coronation Stakes and take it from there.
She might stay longer but that is the current plan. Let’s hope for good weather and she gets there in one piece.”
Battaash breaks a sweat in Temple Stakes
At Haydock last season’s runaway Prix De L’Abbaye winner, Battaash was made to work all the way to the line in the Group Two Temple Stakes. Battaash was having his first run since that win at Chantilly and perhaps he was showing this race rustiness by dwelling in the stalls and then hanging left inside the final furlong.
These sentiments were ones shared by Charlie Hills, with him commenting afterwards:
“He got a bit tired in the last half-furlong, but we’ve left a bit to work on and this was always a prep.
It was his first run and he hasn’t even come in his coat yet. Giving 5lb to some very good horses was always going to be hard.”
This run looks sure to have put Battaash in good shape prior to a crack at the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot for which he currently favourite.
Other performances to note
There were three other horses this weekend that really caught the eye. Firstly European racegoers got a first glimpse of the Australian sprinter Merchant Navy. The Fastnet Rock colt was having his first run for Aidan O’Brien in the Group Two Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh having previously won a Group One over 6f in Australia.
Merchant Navy was worryingly weak in the market but this worry was ill placed as he disposed of his 8 rivals with a modicum of ease. Royal Ascot was always to the fore of Coolmore’s mind when deciding to move the colt across continents and after his display at the weekend it so no surprise to see him at the fore of the Diamond Jubilee market.
Karl Burke had intended on Guineas runner-up Laurens taking up her engagement in the Irish 1000 Guineas but quick ground ruled out plan A. Longchamp proved to be a good plan B with the filly coming out the right side of a photo, picking up her second Group One victory and first of the current campaign.
Mark Johnston was understandably disappointed following Elarqam very poor display in the 2000 Guineas, the Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum owned three old never really looked comfortable on Saturday fading into sixth place up the straight.
However, there was compensation for Johnston in Dusseldorf as Nyaleti justified her 13/8 starting price when claiming the German 1000 Guineas under Joe Fanning. This was the Nyaleti’s second win this season having won a listed race at Goodwood on her penultimate start.
Plenty can be taken from this weekend with the key horse going to Royal Ascot being Merchant Navy, the Australian import has big boots to fill following the likes of Black Caviar and Choisir but he looks like a horse to stay on the right side of for the season.