December 3, 2022

‘Stronger’ Magical serves notice in Pretty Polly

Magical shown winning the 2019 Tattersalls Gold Cup (Photo Healy

Briefly retired before the Coolmore “lads” had a rethink this winter, Magical apparently agreed with the decision to keep her around for another season. The 5-year-old mare served notice in her comeback in Sunday’s Pretty Polly (G1) at the Curragh, where she easily collected her fifth career Group 1 trophy.

The daughter of Galileo is not only back to her best, but better than ever, according to trainer Aidan O’Brien’s postrace comments:

“She’s very exciting and always has been, but she’s got stronger this year and that’s why the lads decided to leave her in training. She was to go to No Nay Never…

“You usually see a big change between three to four, but something really strange happened the way she changed over the winter to this year. It’s very obvious the power she has now.

“She had been working brilliantly, but we knew that she would come on plenty as well.”

That’s great news for fans, especially looking forward to another tilt against Enable. The year-older Enable has had Magical’s measure so far. Magical had to settle for next-best in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), last summer’s Eclipse (G1) and Yorkshire Oaks (G1), and she hasn’t gotten close in the past two runnings of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).

If a fully mature Magical can bridge the gap with the 6-year-old Enable, the match-up would be one for the ages. Enable returns to defend her title in next Sunday’s Eclipse, but O’Brien indicated that would be too soon for Magical to wheel back. Instead, stablemate Japan is tasked with Enable duty at Sandown. Magical awaits the July 25 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), a Breeders’ Cup Turf “Win and You’re In” at Ascot, presumably on Enable’s itinerary as well.

Until then, we’ll have to rely on O’Brien’s judgment because Magical didn’t need to improve one iota to win the Pretty Polly as readily as she did. Jockey Seamie Heffernan kept things simple by going straight to the front in the 1 1/4-mile affair, and her four rivals never had a realistic chance of catching her.

Although stablemate Fleeting was the 5-1 second choice, the trip is on the shorter side for a filly who shapes like a dour type. Arguably the most intriguing runner was Jessica Harrington’s 3-year-old Cayenne Pepper, a 7-1 chance making her reappearance to prep for the Irish Oaks (G1).

Magical breezed along under a snug hold until the stretch, when Heffernan just pushed her out to assert by 4 1/2 lengths in 2:12.29 on a good course. Cayenne Pepper rebuffed Fleeting and edged 1 3/4 lengths away from her in a pleasing trial. The stayer True Self from the Willie Mullins yard was outpaced in fourth, and recent maiden winner Roca Roma retreated to last after chasing Magical early.

Magical was last seen landing the Oct. 19 Champion S. (G1) over Addeybb. A temperature prevented her from shipping for the Breeders’ Cup, and her retirement was announced. Instead of lounging around the paddocks, she kept ticking over at Ballydoyle and persuaded connections to keep her in training.

The Pretty Polly advanced her resume to 22-10-6-0, reflecting victories in the 2017 Debutante (G2), 2018 British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1) and Kilboy Estate (G2), and last year’s Champion/Irish Champion (G1) double, Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1), Mooresbridge (G2), and Alleged (G3). In addition to her placings to Enable, she also missed narrowly to stablemate Happily in the Moyglare Stud (G1) as a juvenile and to Crystal Ocean in the 2019 Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot. Her scorecard could have looked even better if she hadn’t missed the 2018 classics with a setback.

Heffernan gave insights into Magical’s longstanding reputation at Ballydoyle:

Magical’s dam, Halfway to Heaven, was third to the legendary pair of Zarkava and Goldikova in the 2008 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (G1) before winning the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1). The Pivotal mare went on to add the Nassau (G1) and Sun Chariot (G1) and concluded her career with an unplaced effort in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita.

Halfway to Heaven, a daughter of multiple Group 2 vixen Cassandra Go from a prolific family, has excelled herself as a broodmare. In her regular visits to Galileo, she’s produced multiple Group 1 heroine and classic-placed Rhododendron, perhaps a tad unlucky when second in the 2017 Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar, as well as Group 3 scorer Flying the Flag.

Magical one day will add to the family legacy with her own offspring. No Nay Never’s loss in the 2020 breeding season was racing’s gain.