December 5, 2021

Romantic Proposal, Discoveries surprise in Breeders’ Cup WAYIs at the Curragh

Discoveries, a full sister to Alpha Centauri, wins the Moyglare Stud (Courtesy Horse Racing Ireland - photo credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

The upsets kept coming on day two of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh, including both of Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge events.

Flying Five (G1)

Clipper Logistics Group’s Romantic Proposal had yet to win going five furlongs, or attempt Group 1 company, but the 16-1 shot checked both boxes in the Flying Five (G1). Trained by Eddie Lynam of Sole Power fame and well handled by Chris Hayes, the five-year-old mare surged past defending champion Glass Slippers in this “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).

Hayes took the blame for Romantic Proposal’s belated third in the course-and-distance Sapphire (G2) last out July 17, and more than atoned here. Perched right behind Glass Slippers as the race unfolded, she was in the right spot to make her move.

Glass Slippers took up a handy position watching Winter Power flash her customary speed, until that British shipper found the Curragh more demanding than her pet York. As Glass Slippers and 5-2 favorite Dragon Symbol pounced, Romantic Proposal sliced between them to score by a half-length in :59.77 on the good course.

The 33-1 A Case of You rallied to grab second by a neck from Glass Slippers, with Dragon Symbol another half-length back in fourth. Rohaan, who lost all chance by missing the break badly, produced a heroic charge to take fifth. Next came Gustavus Weston; Strong Johnson; Significantly; Measure of Magic; Winter Power, who hopped a bit at the start and had early pace pressure; Sapphire winner Mooniesta; Frenetic; and Back to Brussels.

Romantic Proposal had improved this campaign, but her best results came at six furlongs. A close second in the June 2 Ballyogan (G3), she scored her first stakes win in the June 26 Dash S. here. Her Sapphire third was reminiscent of a similar placing in the five-furlong Sole Power Sprint in her May 16 reappearance at Naas. The Flying Five proved her effectiveness at the trip, advancing her record to 17-5-3-3. The Oct. 3 Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) is reportedly on her agenda.

Bred by Fastnet Stud in Ireland, Romantic Proposal is a daughter of Raven’s Pass and the Diktat mare Playwithmyheart, who is a half to Group 1 winner Toylsome. This is the further family of top stayer Leading Light.

Moyglare Stud (G1)

The Niarchos Family’s homebred Discoveries turned the tables on Agartha to book her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

A full sister to multiple Group 1-winning miler Alpha Centauri, the Jessica Harrington pupil had made her stakes debut in the race honoring her sibling – the “Alpha Centauri” Debutante (G2) Aug. 21 – but wound up third to front-running Agartha. The rematch in the Moyglare Stud (G1) took place over the same course and seven-furlong distance, but on better going than the soft-ground Debutante.

Discoveries thrived in these conditions to give Harrington and jockey Shane Foley their fourth winner of Irish Champions Weekend, after Saturday’s triple at Leopardstown. Tracking Agartha throughout, the 17-2 chance overhauled her by three-quarters of a length in 1:27.10.

Sunset Shiraz, who had been runner-up in the Debutante, checked in third. Fourth-placer Concert Hall, previously the Debutante seventh, made it a clean sweep for alumnae. The two sharp maiden winners –Moyglare Stud’s homebred Homeless Songs and favored Cairde Go Deo – finished fifth and sixth, respectively, followed by Prettiest and Missing Matron.

Discoveries is the third Group 1 winner produced by Alpha Lupi. A Rahy mare out of dual French classic queen East of the Moon, herself a daughter of the great Miesque, Alpha Lupi is responsible for last year’s Coronation (G1) scorer Alpine Star (by Sea the Moon) as well as Alpha Centauri and Discoveries (both by Mastercraftsman).

Vincent O’Brien National (G1)

Godolphin’s Native Trail floored Aidan O’Brien’s hitherto unbeaten Point Lonsdale in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1). The Charlie Appleby juvenile maintained his own perfect 3-for-3 record in convincing style.

As the odds-on Point Lonsdale pressed the pace set by Ebro River, the 7-2 Native Trail was sitting in the proverbial garden spot. Favorite backers had to feel concern the harder it became for Point Lonsdale to put Ebro River away, with the blue Godolphin silks looming on the outside.

Although jockey William Buick later commented on Native Trail’s immaturity, the Oasis Dream colt always looked to have the measure of the leaders. Once he got organized and lengthened stride, Native Trail powered 3 1/2 lengths clear. The final time of 1:26.27 was noticeably faster than the companion Moyglare.

Point Lonsdale ultimately wore down Ebro River for the runner-up spot. Joseph O’Brien’s 100-1 maiden Ultramarine reported home fourth, and Great Max, Duke de Sessa, and Anatoli rounded out the order under the wire.

Native Trail’s first two starts also came at this trip, a Sandown maiden and the July 10 Superlative (G2) at Newmarket. His sights are now set on the Oct. 9 Dewhurst (G1). Appleby suggested that the Breeders’ Cup probably wasn’t in the cards for a colt who’s still figuring out the mental part of the game.

Bred by Le Haras d’Aspel in Great Britain, Native Trail hails from a family cultivated by Juddmonte. His dam, the Observatory mare Needleleaf, is a full sister to Group 1-winning highweight African Rose and Group 3 scorer Helleborine. They are noted broodmares as well, with African Rose producing Group 3 vixen Fair Eva and Helleborine the dam of Group 2 star Calyx.

Blandford (G2)

Another Ballydoyle hotpot went down earlier in the Blandford S. (G2), when Team Valor’s La Petite Coco stayed on relentlessly to chin 6-5 favorite Love. The Paddy Twomey sophomore was stepping up in class, and down in trip, from her romp in the Aug. 7 Give Thanks (G3) at Cork, but continued her rampant progress in this new career high.

Love, on the other hand, was dropping in grade after Group 1 losses versus males. Although last year’s dual classic conqueror stalked the pace and took over entering the stretch, the Ballydoyle champion couldn’t achieve enough separation to put the race away.

La Petite Coco’s stamina came to the fore late, and the daughter of 2013 Epsom Derby (G1) hero Ruler of the World got up at the wire for Billy Lee. The 16-5 chance negotiated 1 1/4 miles in 2:08.39 to earn her third straight win, following an about 1 3/8-mile event at Killarney and the 1 1/2-mile Give Thanks.

Thundering Nights had every chance but settled for third, another three lengths adrift. Insinuendo, Oodnadatta, defending champion Cayenne Pepper, Amma Grace, and Love’s pacemaker, Woodland Garden, rounded out the order of finish.

La Petite Coco was using the Blandford as a springboard to the Oct. 16 British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1), back at her optimal 1 1/2-mile trip.

Bred by B. Schone in the Emerald Isle, La Petite Coco is out of the Konigstiger mare La Petite Virginia, who is herself a half-sister to 1996 Deutsches Derby (G1) champion Lavirco and Group 2 hero Laveron. Second dam La Virginia is a full sister to champion La Colorada, dam of Lomitas.

Irish St. Leger (G1)

Johnny Murtagh added another bullet point to his burgeoning resume as a trainer, and Ben Coen reached a new level as a jockey, courtesy of Sonnyboyliston’s victory in the 1 3/4-mile Irish St. Leger (G1). Building upon his gritty win in York’s Aug. 21 Ebor H., the 4-1 shot was just as implacable at the Curragh. The Kildare Racing Club’s four-year-old subdued eight-year-old veteran Twilight Payment, grinding past by three-quarters of a length.

Trainer Joseph O’Brien sent out both placegetters, with Twilight Payment 1 1/2 lengths clear of Baron Samedi, a stablemate half his age. Father Aidan’s King of the Castle was fourth, and brother Donnacha O’Brien’s Emperor of the Sun came in fifth.

Search for a Song, favored in her bid for an historic three-peat, contended in the stretch before tiring to sixth. Following her across the line were Carlisle Bay, Aircraft Carrier, Seattle Creek, Barbados, tearaway early leader Amhran Na Bhfiann, Passion, and Master of Reality. Barrington Court was scratched on account of the quick going.

The Irish St. Leger has Melbourne Cup (G1) ramifications, although Murtagh mentioned that an Australian venture might be more suitable for a year-older Sonnyboyliston in 2022. Third to Broome in the Mar. 28 Devoy S. at Naas and to Japan in the May 6 Ormonde (G3) at Chester, Sonnyboyliston scored in the June 18 Martin Molony S. at Limerick. He regressed to sixth in the July 10 John Smith’s Silver Cup (G3) at York, but has since put that behind him.

Sonnyboyliston was bred in Ireland by Ms. Diane O’Neill. The Power gelding is out of the Dylan Thomas mare Miss McNamara, from the family of Irish classic winner Bachelor Duke, Grade 1 hero Talco, and current multiple Group 2 victor Spanish Mission, who is pointing to this November’s Melbourne Cup.