Day two of the Irish Champions Festival witnessed surprises in both Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events at the Curragh, as the favorites failed to fire. Moss Tucker sprang a 16-1 upset in the Flying Five (G1), while the 9-2 Fallen Angel scored a poignant victory in the Moyglare Stud (G1).
But the odds-on Henry Longfellow obliged in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1), reportedly handing Aidan O’Brien his 4,000th career win as a trainer. Twelve of those wins have come in the National.
The ground turned out to be a key factor in Sunday’s results. The rain arrived in spades, prompting a downgrading of the course to “good to yielding” after the opening handicap.
Flying Five (G1)
Highfield Princess, the even-money favorite in her title defense, didn’t appear to be traveling with her customary verve early, and she could not remain in contention in this Challenge race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). Just as unexpected, however, was the tame retreat of fellow British shipper Art Power. The raiding party’s other eminently logical player, Bradsell, stayed in the picture longer without ever really looking like picking up, and ultimately faded too.
Instead, it was a couple of British-based longshots who forged ahead. The filly Get Ahead and Equality were fighting out the finish when Moss Tucker struck top gear for the home team. Trained by Ken Condon and ridden by Billy Lee, the Excelebration gelding nabbed Get Ahead by a half-length in 1:00.89 for five furlongs.
Equality settled for third, another 1 1/4 lengths back. Ladies Church was a hampered fourth, suggesting that trainer Johnny Murtagh is correct about her breaking through one of these days. Highfield Princess gamely boxed on for fifth, and a reason for her subpar performance soon came to light: the veterinarian found her to be in season, according to the stewards’ report. Art Power, Bradsell, Aesop’s Fables, Bouttemont, and Ano Syra completed the order of finish.
Moss Tucker, a homebred for Donal Spring of Irish rugby fame, is named after his late teammates Moss Keane and Colm Tucker. Spring compared the gelding’s Flying Five upset to Munster rugby’s shocking the All Blacks in 1978.
Indeed, Moss Tucker took time climbing through the handicap ranks before emerging as a stakes performer last term. Fifth in the 2022 Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) in his only prior top-level appearance, the bay scored his first listed win in the ensuing Waterford Testimonial S. Moss Tucker floored Ballydoyle’s Tenebrism in the April 24 Woodlands S. at Naas, but then succumbed to Ladies Church in the Sole Power Sprint and proved no match for Art Power in his next two. He rebounded in his latest, though, in the Phoenix Sprint (G3), and continued his upward curve here. Moss Tucker’s scorecard stands at 30-8-4-7.
The five-year-old was produced by the Pastoral Pursuits mare Rare Symphony, who is a half-sister to Scandinavian champion Bomar and Santa Anita Grade 3 vixen Pantsonfire. Given Condon’s comments that the rain helped Moss Tucker achieve his new career high, it’s questionable whether Moss Tucker will try to emulate his aunt’s success in Southern California.
Moyglare Stud (G1)
O’Brien’s Ylang Ylang was favored to retain her perfect mark in this “Win and You’re In” for the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), but the 6-5 chance folded under pressure from British shipper Fallen Angel. Representing the same connections as Saturday’s Dullingham Park (G2) winner Flight Plan – Steve Parkin’s Clipper Logistics, trainer Karl Burke, and jockey Danny Tudhope – Fallen Angel became the first Group 1 winner for freshman sire Too Darn Hot.
The homebred filly gets her gray coat from her late dam, the Lawman mare Agnes Stewart, who was a smart two-year-old herself. Successful in the 2012 May Hill (G2) and runner-up in the Fillies’ Mile (G1), Agnes Stewart sadly died of colic after producing Fallen Angel. Parkin revealed that the filly’s name alludes to her passing.
Fallen Angel is proving to be quite a tribute with a 3-for-4 record. A half-length away from being unbeaten, she sustained her only loss in the Star S. at Sandown. Tudhope critiqued himself in the aftermath, and subsequently steered her to a three-length decision in the Sweet Solera (G3).
Again racing prominently at the Curragh, Fallen Angel pressed Ylang Ylang, and the favorite backpedaled uncharacteristically. No sooner had Fallen Angel taken over, than she was accosted by Vespertilio. But Fallen Angel summoned extra to repel her challenge, kicked 1 1/4 lengths clear, and clocked seven furlongs in 1:27.50.
Vespertilio drew 4 1/4 lengths ahead of the rest. Ornellaia and Porta Fortuna dead-heated for third, edging Red Viburnum. Next came She’s Quality, Brilliant, Pearls and Rubies, and the disappointing Ylang Ylang.
Vincent O’Brien National (G1)
The Coolmore/Ballydoyle brain trust was on weather watch for the exciting Justify colt City of Troy, the longtime National favorite. After Ylang Ylang’s flop, he was scratched. Yet the loaded outfit had kept another highly-regarded juvenile, Henry Longfellow, engaged just in case the ground went against City of Troy, and the insurance policy paid off.
The blueblood son of Dubawi and seven-time Group 1 star Minding was originally awaiting the Dewhurst (G1), having romped in the Aug. 19 Futurity (G2), but he seamlessly stepped into his new role. Inheriting odds-on favoritism, as well as jockey Ryan Moore, Henry Longfellow was reserved in third as Amo Racing’s pacemaker Cuban Thunder set the gallop for even-money companion Bucanero Fuerte. The latter, coming off a sensational win in the Phoenix (G1), was expected to pose the chief obstacle to Ballydoyle.
Perhaps feeling the effects of that performance, however, Bucanero Fuerte was already being ridden along when Henry Longfellow was just breezing alongside. The super-sub delivered the coup de grace and opened up by five lengths. Islandsinthestream, who had also been runner-up in the Futurity, stayed on to replicate the exacta. Bucanero Fuerte dropped another 7 1/2 lengths adrift in third, and Cuban Thunder trailed in the scratch-reduced field. Givemethebeatboys was likewise withdrawn on account of conditions.
Henry Longfellow finished seven furlongs in 1:27.54 to extend his record to 3-for-3, all at this course and distance on varying degrees of rain-softened going. In the vanguard of classic prospects for 2024, the homebred bay might head into winter quarters.
O’Brien, who celebrated his 4,000-win milestone by praising the team ethos at Ballydoyle, indicated that City of Troy could now take up the Dewhurst slot, ground-permitting. He’d previously mentioned that dirt was a possibility too, holding out the tantalizing idea of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Rest of the Curragh
KHK Racing’s Eldar Eldarov crowned a big day for sire Dubawi in the 1 3/4-mile Irish St Leger (G1). In addition to his double with Henry Longfellow, Dubawi factors as the sire of Too Darn Hot, and therefore the paternal grandsire of Fallen Angel.
Winless since last year’s St Leger (G1) at Doncaster, the Roger Varian pupil had run well in defeat when runner-up in his Yorkshire Cup (G2) comeback and in his recent fourth in the Goodwood Cup (G1). Circumstances conspired to help him at the Curragh, with only three opponents, led by O’Brien’s ring-rusty defending champion Kyprios. Although the master of Ballydoyle had sounded a fitness warning about Kyprios, the market still dispatched the star stayer as the favorite. He really did need a race, though.
As Eldar Eldarov stalked and pounced to a 3 1/2-length verdict with David Egan, Kyprios churned on in a hard-trying second. Dawn Rising placed third, and early leader Yasmin tired to last of the quartet. O’Brien’s other marquee contender, Emily Dickinson, was ruled out by a stone bruise.
Eldar Eldarov advanced his resume to 10-5-1-0, including a score in the 2022 Queen’s Vase (G2) at Royal Ascot. Varian said that he could return to the Berkshire venue for British Champions Day. Out of the multiple stakes-winning Sea the Stars mare All at Sea, Eldar Eldarov hails from Kirsten Rausing’s all-star family responsible for Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) heroine Alpinista.
The Richard Fahey-trained Native American made it a Sunday hat trick for British shippers in the lucrative Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale S. Not seen since his May 27 debut conquest at York, the Wathnan Racing recruit justified odds-on favoritism by 2 1/2 lengths. The Sioux Nation colt was piloted by Colin Keane, who doubled up by riding Crystal Black to take the concluding Northfields premier handicap for father Gerard Keane. Native American is pointing for the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) on Arc Day.
A couple of other O’Briens won Sunday’s first two races. Big Gossey rallied to a 16-1 upset of the opener, the Bold Lad premier handicap, for Charles O’Brien and apprentice jockey Robert Whearty.
Joseph O’Brien sent out Lumiere Rock to dominate the Blandford (G2), upsetting Ballydoyle’s Jackie Oh and temporarily postponing father Aidan’s 4,000th win. The 6-1 chance had just missed in the Prix Alec Head (formerly the de la Nonette) (G2) last out, and the addition of cheekpieces helped her impose her authority on this open-looking renewal. Under a well-timed move by Dylan Browne McMonagle, Lumiere Rock got the jump on Jackie Oh in the 1 1/4-mile test and rolled by three lengths in 2:07.89.
Lumiere Rock’s resume reads 10-2-5-0. Her first win came in last fall’s Staffordstown Stud (G3), and she’s since placed in the Blue Wind (G3) and Ribblesdale (G2). The Saxon Warrior filly could be bound for Arc weekend or Champions Day at Ascot.