October 2, 2023

Magical earns return trip to Breeders’ Cup Turf in Irish Champion

Trainer Aidan O'Brien won four races on opening day of Irish Champions Weekend Egypt (c) Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com

Hot favorite Magical led home a Ballydoyle trifecta in Saturday’s Irish Champion (G1), capping a four-win day at Leopardstown for Aidan O’Brien (and sire Galileo) and earning another trip to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) through the “Win and You’re In” perk.

Runner-up to Enable in last year’s Turf at Churchill Downs, Magical chased that great mare home twice again this summer, in the Eclipse (G1) and most recently in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1). But in this marquee event of Irish Champions Weekend, Magical was the class of the field, and performed accordingly.

The Ballydoyle pacemaker Hunting Horn did his job up front, and given Magical’s superior stamina, her jockey Ryan Moore wisely had her stalking in second. Elarqam also raced prominently until fading in upper stretch, just as Magical was grabbing the baton from Hunting Horn.

Quickening clear in short order, Magical held sway by 2 1/4 lengths from stablemate Magic Wand who headed Derby (G1) hero Anthony Van Dyck for second – all three by Galileo. Magic Wand, runner-up in both the Arlington Million (G1) and Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) to Bricks and Mortar, was boosting his form here.

Japanese representative Deirdre was stuck at the back at a decisive stage before regrouping out wide, or else she might have been closer than another half-length away in fourth. Headman fared best of the British invaders in fifth, looming but flattening, in an effort consistent with trainer Roger Charlton’s belief he’s a horse for next year.

The Sheikh Hamdan pair of Madhmoon and Elarqam were the disappointments of the race in sixth and seventh, respectively, trailed only by Hunting Horn. Madhmoon might be best served cutting back to a mile.

Magical was adding a third Group 1 title after last October’s British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1) and the May 26 Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1). She was a head away from another in the 2017 Moyglare Stud (G1) as a juvenile, and aside from her high-profile placings to Enable, she was also a gallant second to Crystal Ocean in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot.

O’Brien indicated that Magical could try to oppose Enable’s three-peat bid in the October 6 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1). That’s a well-worn path to the Breeders’ Cup. Interestingly, stablemate Anthony Van Dyck is also in the Turf reckoning.

Later on the card, a Filly & Mare Turf (G1) spot was up for grabs in the “Win and You’re In” Matron (G1), where the Joseph O’Brien-trained Iridessa denied his father’s Hermosa.

Defending champion and odds-on favorite Laurens tried to lead throughout, but Hermosa proved her nemesis and overtook her in the stretch. Then upset artist Iridessa, who floored Hermosa in the 2018 Fillies’ Mile (G1) and again struck at a price in the June 28 Pretty Polly (G1) over Magic Wand, surged late. Under Wayne Lordan, the daughter of Ruler of the World prevailed by three-quarters of a length.

Just Wonderful responded to a first-time hood to take third, almost catching stablemate Hermosa and rounding out a trifecta for the three-year-olds. Laurens, who tired to fourth, perhaps felt the effects of a hard race at York last out. The Karl Burke trainee was coming off a near-miss in the August 24 City of York (G2) in course-record time, and the winner, Shine So Bright, also disappointed on Saturday when fourth in the Park (G2) at Doncaster.

Iridessa, in contrast, was rebounding from a seventh in the Irish Oaks (G1). Dropping back in trip to a mile clearly suited, although she’d been no match for Hermosa in either Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas (G1) or the Irish equivalent. Her proficiency at 1 1/4 miles would make the Filly & Mare Turf a logical option.

The first Breeders’ Cup Challenge race of Irish Champions Weekend, the KPMG Champions Juvenile (G2), was all about odds-on favorite Mogul who gave Aidan O’Brien his eighth win in the last 10 runnings.

A full brother to current three-year-old star Japan, another Arc contender for Ballydoyle, the Galileo colt followed up on a good-looking Curragh maiden score to capture this stakes debut. Moore reserved him just off the pace on the outside, and straightening for home, Mogul swept to the front. The Aga Khan’s homebred Sinawann closed gradually late, but Mogul didn’t look like being caught with 1 1/4 lengths to spare at the line.

Although Mogul has booked his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), it’s doubtful that O’Brien would send the leading classic prospect to Santa Anita. None of his previous seven winners of this race advanced to the Breeders’ Cup, and his postrace comments didn’t suggest any change in his thinking.

“We won’t over-race him,” O’Brien told irishracing.com, adding that either the October 12 Dewhurst (G1) or October 26 Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) could be on the agenda.

Purchased for 3.4 million guineas ($4,655,280) as the second most expensive yearling at Tattersalls last October, Mogul is the latest standout for his dam, the stakes-placed Danehill mare Shastye. Her first tryst with Galileo produced Group 2 winner and dual classic-placed Secret Gesture. Japan, a half-length third in the June 1 Derby at Epsom, has reeled off three in a row including the Grand Prix de Paris (G1) and Juddmonte International (G1). Mogul, sure to be on the path to Epsom himself, is already prominent in the 2020 Derby market.

The other two Ballydoyle winners might have put themselves on the Breeders’ Cup radar. Norway punched home best with Seamie Heffernan in the 1 1/2-mile Group 3 traditionally known as the Kilternan, defeating Joseph’s Buckhurst in another father-son finish. Aidan had the rest of the superfecta with pacesetter Blenheim Palace holding third and comebacker Mount Everest an encouraging fourth.

The elder O’Brien told irishracing.com that Norway, a full brother to Iridessa’s sire Ruler of the World, was bound for an international campaign. Not expecting him to make it to Australia as first discussed, he said “Hong Kong or America” are in the cards.

Juvenile filly Blissful got Ballydoyle off to a winning start in the opening Ingabelle, nipping Nurse Barbara at the wire for Moore. The full sister to Gustav Klimt sports fancy entries and could emerge as a candidate for the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

Richard Fahey was the only British trainer to score on the card, courtesy of Space Traveller in the Boomerang (G2). Owned by race sponsor Clipper Logistics, the sophomore edged fellow British shipper Matterhorn, while Ballydoyle favorite Lancaster House had his bubble burst in seventh.