Easily the class of the field in Sunday’s Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) at the Curragh, Magical kept the tactics to pure simplicity in her title defense. The heavy odds-on favorite took control early and held sway throughout, crossing the wire with 2 1/4 lengths to spare from her Ballydoyle stablemate Sir Dragonet.
Both Aidan O’Brien runners had been in the mix for Saturday’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) versus Enable, where Magical might have given the supermare a little more to think about. But the COVID-reconfigured stakes calendar gave the Coolmore brain trust another option. Normally held in late May, the Tattersalls Gold Cup was postponed a couple of months to King George weekend, and the Ballydoyle forces were divided between both targets. Sovereign and Japan could not live with Enable at Ascot, and Magical enjoyed a more straightforward task on Sunday.
Jockey Wayne Lordan made the most of his rare opportunity to guide Magical. Their only prior partnership came in the 2018 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), when the daughter of Galileo was a quietly-ridden 10th behind Enable. That was a stepping stone to bigger efforts later in the fall – her Group 1 breakthrough in the British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1) and a terrific second to Enable in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
Magical added more laurels in 2019, all at the expense of males. Aside from her seven-length romp in last season’s Tattersalls Gold Cup, she most notably captured the Irish Champion (G1) at Leopardstown and the Champion (G1) at Ascot. Magical was also runner-up in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot and played second fiddle to Enable in the Eclipse (G1) and Yorkshire Oaks (G1).
Kept in training for 2020 in a reversal of a decision to retire her, Magical returned in top form in the June 28 Pretty Polly (G1) at this same course and 1 1/4-mile trip. After that commanding wire job, O’Brien raved about how she’d improved as a 5-year-old.
Magical didn’t have to move forward to account for her five rivals on Sunday. Two are better over further – Sir Dragonet and Irish St Leger (G1) heroine Search for a Song. The pair best suited to this distance, Buckhurst and Leo de Fury, had a class question to answer in their first Group 1 sortie. And the lone 3-year-old, O’Brien’s arguable third-stringer Armory, was stepping up in trip after a fourth in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1).
Hence it would have required a strange miscue for any of them to upset Magical, a hypothetical that never materialized once the champion seized the initiative. Well handled by Lordan, she led the stalking Leo de Fury and Buckhurst and began to get away from her pursuers in the stretch.
Sir Dragonet, off to a rather lackadaisical start, found himself pocketed in the next flight. Inside the final quarter-mile, he willed Armory out of his way and rallied well for second. Although winless since last year’s Chester Vase (G3), the Camelot colt continues to turn in useful efforts in defeat. Curiously he hasn’t tried 1 1/2 miles since his close fifth as the 2019 Derby (G1) favorite, and a return to that distance, especially on easy ground, could work wonders.
Search for a Song appeared a bit outpaced at one stage, but her stamina kicked in late to snatch third from Armory. The Dermot Weld filly is now back in business after slipping and being pulled up in the July 5 Munster Oaks (G3).
Armory ran evenly in fourth. Next came Leo de Fury and Buckhurst, who faded to last. Having beaten both Sir Dragonet and Leo de Fury at this course and distance, Buckhurst was some way below his true running here.
Magical covered 1 1/4 miles on good-to-yielding ground in 2:10.39, and Lordan essentially reported that she was taking it easy on herself.
“I thought in the last half-furlong she wasn’t even killing herself,” the rider told irishracing.com. “She’s a top-class filly and I’m just delighted to get the ride on her.
“She hasn’t made it (the running) much in her races. She made it the last day and zinged along (in the Pretty Polly), today she was a little bit more relaxed out there in front.
“I felt if anyone got to me it would only help me.”
Lordan offered more insights into Magical on racingtv.com:
🗣 “It just feels like you are floating on her.”@waynemlordan praises the “top-class” Magical following successive victories in the @Tattersalls1766 Gold Cup at the @curraghrace for team @Ballydoyle pic.twitter.com/uJdeRKaZpC
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) July 26, 2020
Magical was a classy juvenile of 2017, winning the Debutante (G2), just missing in the Moyglare Stud (G1), and finishing fourth in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) and Fillies’ Mile (G1). Sidelined during the 2018 classics, she progressed through her sophomore campaign and reached a new level as an older horse.
Now a six-time Group 1 winner, Magical has doubled the Group 1 tally of both full sister Rhododendron and their dam, Halfway to Heaven. That Pivotal mare swept the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1), Nassau (G1), and Sun Chariot (G1) in 2008. Rhododendron spread her major victories out over three seasons – the 2016 Fillies’ Mile, 2017 Prix de l’Opera (G1), and 2018 Lockinge (G1) – while placing in the 1000 Guineas (G1) and Oaks (G1) at Epsom, where she was second as the favorite to Enable.
Magical is herself 0-for-5 against Enable so far, but figures to get another chance or two this term. O’Brien told Racing Post that the Aug. 19 Juddmonte International (G1) at York and a title defense in the Sept. 12 Irish Champion were her near-term options. Enable is penciled in for York, but it remains to be determined if she would go for the Juddmonte or seek a hat trick in the Aug. 20 Yorkshire Oaks.