October 2, 2023

Magical gets revenge on Ghaiyyath, repeats in BC WAYI Irish Champion

Magical wins the Irish Champion Stakes (Leopardstown Racecourse)

Under a tactically brilliant ride by Seamie Heffernan, defending champion Magical subdued her odds-on challenger Ghaiyyath in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) Saturday at Leopardstown. The Galileo mare became just the second repeat winner of the marquee event, emulating another Aidan O’Brien star in Dylan Thomas (2006-07), and earned a free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

Magical was exacting revenge after settling for second to Ghaiyyath in the Juddmonte International (G1) at York, where she was reserved off the pace by Ryan Moore. Although she was workmanlike when grinding it out for the runner-up spot, three lengths adrift of the Godolphin behemoth, arguably she might have fared better if using her tactical foot.

That’s the approach Heffernan took as he picked up the Irish Champion mount, and Magical responded to prevail in an epic Ballydoyle versus Godolphin battle. Ghaiyyath, riding a four-race winning streak, set up shop on the front end. But this time, Magical was in the game right from the break, keeping close tabs as he dictated terms.

Turning for home, Magical increased the pressure on Ghaiyyath, who was digging to stave her off in upper stretch. At the same time, O’Brien’s Japan had clear sailing on the inside and briefly bid to challenge, only to retreat.

Magical, however, was relentless until Ghaiyyath succumbed. She wore him down by three-quarters of a length in 2:05.08 for 1 1/4 miles on a good course.

“What she always wants is to eyeball a horse and battle,” O’Brien told irishracing.com. “Seamus was happy to make the running today if William (Buick on Ghaiyyath) wanted to get a lead and if William was going to go on Seamus was going to go with him to keep her interested and he gave her a brilliant ride.

“She’s one serious mare when you get into a battle with her and when you really get into a battle with her that’s when you really see what she can do as you saw there today.”

The master of Ballydoyle also sent out the third-placer in Armory, who edged French shipper Sottsass. Japan faded to fifth, and Leo de Fury trailed throughout.

Magical registered her seventh career Group 1 victory, and likely her finest. Just touched off by Happily in the 2017 Moyglare Stud (G1), she broke through at the top level in the 2018 British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1), and added the 2019 Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1), Irish Champion, and Champion S. (G1). Magical has also placed second to Enable in a few majors, the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf as well as the 2019 Eclipse (G1) and Yorkshire Oaks (G1).

While Magical could try Enable again in the Oct. 4 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), O’Brien has the early favorite for ParisLongchamp in 3-year-old filly Love. Magical has alternatives, including the Prix de l’Opera (G1) for distaffers on Arc Day.

The Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Turf rates as an enticing target, especially with her berth already secured. Magical would have had a return Breeders’ Cup engagement at Santa Anita last fall if not for spiking a fever. Her Coolmore owners initially planned to retire her, but decided that the date with young sire No Nay Never could wait.

Magical rewarded them by returning in top form this summer, capturing the Pretty Polly (G1) and repeating in the Tattersalls Gold Cup before her trip to York. Her Irish Champion heroics vindicated O’Brien’s belief that she’s better than ever as a 5-year-old.

Two other Ballydoyle pupils scored wins on the first day of Irish Champions Weekend. Tiger Moth, last seen missing by a head in the Irish Derby (G1), justified odds-on favoritism in the 1 1/2-mile test better known as the Kilternan Stakes (G3). With Moore up, the Galileo colt shot four lengths clear of Silence Please, Up Helly Aa, and Cormorant to reiterate his considerable upside. The Melbourne Cup (G1) is a possibility if Tiger Moth boosted his rating enough.

Stablemate Monday set the tone by breaking her maiden in the opening Ingabelle Stakes, putting herself in the picture for the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) on Arc Day or the Oct. 9 Fillies’ Mile (G1) at Newmarket.

The first foal produced by 2015 Boussac heroine Ballydoyle, Monday was stepping up from a fourth on debut at Punchestown. She was accordingly in the shadow of favored stablemate More Beautiful, but Monday revealed how much she’d come on from her introduction. The Fastnet Rock filly showed speed for Heffernan and kept finding when No Speak Alexander loomed in the lane. Monday held by three-quarters of a length while completing 7 furlongs in 1:28.27, not bad since the concluding premier handicap went in 1:27.62. A Taad Moody was third, and newcomer Vario did well to outfinish More Beautiful in fourth.

The Jessica Harrington-trained Cadillac is likely to take up his “Win and You’re In” offer after his authoritative display in the Champions Juvenile (G2), a Challenge race for the Juvenile Turf (G1). The Lope de Vega colt, who romped by nine lengths here in his premiere, appreciated being back on good going after a second on soft-to-heavy in the Futurity (G2).

Ballydoyle’s American Pharoah blueblood Van Gogh did his best to try to wire the mile affair, and succeeded in running nearly all of his rivals ragged. The exception was Cadillac, who raced within striking range early and motored late by a handy 3 1/2 lengths. Shane Foley guided Alpha Racing’s promising colorbearer in 1:40.93.

Like Heffernan, jockey Colin Keane scored a double on the day including the Matron Stakes (G1) aboard the rampantly progressive Champers Elysees, the first Group 1 winner trained by Johnny Murtagh. Although the Matron is a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), Murtagh was talking about the Mile (G1) in the immediate aftermath.

Fitzwilliam Racing’s Champers Elysees, who’d advanced from a handicap score on reappearance to dominate the Corrib Fillies S. at Galway and the Fairy Bridge (G3) at Tipperary, was anchored near the back early. Up front, Ballydoyle’s Love Locket was rollicking. Murtagh’s other runner, Know It All, sat in second and pounced when the pacesetter folded as expected in the stretch. Peaceful, well placed herself by Heffernan, collared Know It All in turn.

Then Champers Elysees arrived on the premises. Having launched in tandem with favorite Fancy Blue, Champers Elysees had the superior turn of foot at this mile trip. The daughter of Elzaam surged past Peaceful and won going away by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:39.77.

Fancy Blue, coming off her French Oaks (G1) and Nassau (G1) laurels, shaped like a 1 1/4-mile performer by staying on to snatch third from Know It All. This was a fine prep for the Opera, if trainer Donnacha O’Brien is headed there.

Keane later steered Safe Voyage home in a desperate photo over Sinawann in the Boomerang Mile (G2), accomplished in a slightly faster 1:39.44. Shipping from John Quinn’s base in North Yorkshire, the 7-year-old veteran worked out a beneficial trip as market leaders Century Dream and Lancaster House vied early. Although Century Dream forged ahead entering the straight, Safe Voyage mowed him down.

Sophomore Sinawann then accosted Safe Voyage and appeared to head him at one point, but the older and wiser campaigner fought back to get the nod. The top two pulled four lengths clear of Ballydoyle’s Vatican City in third.

Safe Voyage had just turned in a signature victory last out in the City of York (G2), where he bested multiple Group 1 queen One Master by daylight. The Fast Company gelding has competed mostly at 7 furlongs, and in his previous try at a mile, he was third in the 2019 Queen Elizabeth II (G1) on Champions Day at Ascot.