December 11, 2018

Alpha Centauri stars in Prix Jacques le Marois, WAYI for Breeders’ Cup Mile

Alpha Centauri, shown in her course-record Coronation, racked up her fourth straight Group 1 in the Marois (c) Photo courtesy of Ascot Twitter

Thirty-one years after Miesque defeated older males in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) en route to her first Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) crown, her great-granddaughter Alpha Centauri emulated her success in the Deauville feature, now a “Win and You’re In” for the Mile.

A Niarchos Family homebred like her famous third dam, Alpha Centauri was sent off as the odds-on favorite in search of her fourth consecutive Group 1 tally. The Jessica Harrington trainee returned to form in the May 27 Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) at the Curragh, reached a new high in a course record-shattering romp in Royal Ascot’s Coronation (G1), and spread-eagled them in the July 13 Falmouth (G1) at Newmarket. Her supremacy among the distaff milers translated perfectly in her first start against males in the Marois.

Fellow three-year-old filly With You, expected to provide her primary opposition after a convincing score in the course-and-distance Prix Rothschild (G1), went straight to the lead on the stands’ side. The field split into two groups, with Success Days showing the way among those racing in the center.

Alpha Centauri was drawn next to With You, and accordingly stalked her in the opening stages. But the gray could not be restrained indefinitely. Once jockey Colm O’Donoghue gave Alpha Centauri her head, the race was over. She stormed 2 1/2 lengths clear in a time of 1:34.27 for the metric mile on good-to-soft going.

Four-year-old colt Recoletos, the Prix d’Ispahan (G1) hero, gave game pursuit to finish best of the rest. In a performance that might well have won a typical edition of the Marois, Recoletos pulled 3 1/2 lengths ahead of With You, who appeared totally beaten before valiantly soldiering on for third. Noor al Hawa snatched fourth from Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) victor Romanised. Next came Prix Jean Prat (G1) scorer Intellogent, Trais Fluors, Cascadian, Success Days, Queen Anne (G1) upsetter Accidental Agent, and longshot Zalamea.

Alpha Centauri sports a record of 9-6-1-0. The strapping daughter of Mastercraftsman came to hand earlier than might have been expected as a juvenile, winning her first two starts at Naas including the Fillies’ Sprint. Just denied as the favorite in the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot, she was a below-form fifth in the Moyglare Stud (G1) at the Curragh. Soft-to-heavy ground proved her undoing that day. It was a similar story in her sophomore debut over heavy going in the Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial (G3), where she tired to 10th of 13. Bettors lost faith in her in the Irish Guineas, but the 12-1 overlay reminded everyone of her prowess back on a good surface. She’s been favored ever since.

The Irish-bred is out of the unraced Rahy mare Alpha Lupi, also the dam of Group 2-placed stakes winner Tenth Star (by Dansili). Alpha Lupi was produced by Miesque’s daughter East of the Moon, a dual French classic heroine and highweight who was herself victorious in the Marois in 1994.

Connections appeared to have slightly divergent reactions to the idea of tackling the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, judging by the quotes in Racing Post. Harrington’s immediate post-race comment revealed a potential concern.

“I know it (the Breeders’ Cup) has been good to the Niarchos Family,” the trainer said, “but it will have been a long year by then, won’t it? One hopes she is not kind of burning energy.”

Racing manager Alan Cooper, on the other hand, struck a more positive tone to Racing Post.

“We have to discuss it with Jessie but I’d imagine it will possibly be the Matron Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown and then towards the Breeders’ Cup Mile.”

Fans can only hope that Alpha Centauri does line up at Churchill Downs, on the 30th anniversary of Miesque’s Breeders’ Cup Mile repeat over the same course.