September 16, 2019
Japan’s Deirdre runs fourth as O’Brien trio sweeps Irish Champion Stakes
On Saturday, Sept. 14, Japan racing fans looked toward Ireland, as Deirdre, the first of two Japanese contenders racing abroad on the weekend, took on the Irish Champion Stakes, a 2,000-meter Group 1 over turf worth 1.25 million euros at Leopardstown Racecourse.
Hopes were high both at home and among local punters that the 5-year-old Ritto-based mare would score her second win in a row following victory at Goodwood on Aug. 1. Though Deirdre’s participation in an Irish race was already a first for Japan, a win at Leopardstown would make the Harbinger mare the first Japan-based horse to capture top-level races in three different countries.
Unfortunately, it was Deirdre who found herself trapped in the final stages of the race, as she found no opening on the rail long after the 8-strong field had straightened for home. Jockey Oisin Murphy finally moved Deirdre, the race third choice, out and clear with less than a furlong to go. Despite a lightning-fast drive for home, she finished in fourth place, about 3 lengths behind Magical, a 4-year-old filly and the race favorite.
In second some 2 1/4 lengths later was the 4-year-old filly Magic Wand. Following a head behind her was the 3-year-old colt Anthony Van Dyck in third place, which completed a three-way sweep of the top places by Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, who fielded four of the field’s eight runners. It was O’Brien’s eighth win of the race, his first in 8 years.
Deirdre, who broke from the No. 6 gate, waited toward the rear and traveled smoothly as O’Brien’s Hunting Horn led, followed by Magical and Elarqam. Tracking them was Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck. Headman, somewhat slow out of the gate, brought up the rear behind Deirdre.
The field remained tight with 400 meters to go, but with the pace picking up, Deirdre was still close to the rail as she was passed by Headman. Magical took the lead with just over 200 to go as Murphy switched Deirdre over and clear. Magic Wand chased Magical and Anthony Van Dyck held his ground. Deirdre, having had to make her drive from the rear, flew down the stretch but was never a threat.
The 24-year-old Murphy, a native of Ireland and current leading jockey in England, rode Deirdre’s win of the Nassau Stakes last out at England’s Goodwood Racecourse. Murphy had won the Irish Champion Stakes last year and had given up a chance in the classic St. Leger at Doncaster to ride Deirdre. Murphy had ridden Deirdre on Tuesday morning at Newmarket and had commented, “She’s definitely in the same condition as she was leading up to Goodwood. She’s very fit, that’s for sure, and she’s held her weight very well. I’m thrilled and will be disappointed if she doesn’t run very well because they couldn’t have done a better job with her.”
Post-race, Murphy remained upbeat. “She relaxed super, her pace was strong. I chose to go inside and follow Magic Wand. It was either that or be three deep or maybe last, follow Headman and challenge five wide.
“She ran really well. The pace was fast and it was a tough race.”
Later, he commented, “She was able to get close in the end but the difference between her and the winner was the ground she had to make up moving out. She was in great shape. Her team did a good job of getting her ready and she ran very well. She gave it her all and I’m sorry we couldn’t win.”
Trainer Mitsuru Hashida said the trip to the track had taken some eight hours longer than expected. Deirdre, though “didn’t look any the worse for wear.”
“She looked good. She was in good shape mentally and physically.” Hashida blamed the traffic for the loss. “After coming into the straight, it didn’t open up in front and she lost the race having to move out and make her drive from there.”
It was Murphy who was more lavish with the praise for Deirdre’s effort. “She had a great run. She’s done Japan very proud. People need to start realizing that Japanese horses are of the highest caliber.”
The win was the eighth from 19 starts for Magical and her third Group 1 win. Bred in Ireland, she is sired by Galileo and is out of the Pivotal mare Halfway to Heaven, Magical raced under Ryan Moore and clocked 2 minutes 6.49 seconds over the 2,000 meters of good to firm ground. Post time for the Group 1 was 4:15 p.m. (0:15 Sunday Japan time).
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Result: Horse Racing Ireland
, Racing Post