The wonder is that she hadn’t already qualified for the Breeders’ Cup. Alpha Centauri, the Irish filly who has been the star of the season so far in Europe, swept home for a fourth straight Group 1 triumph in Sunday’s Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville to seal a starting berth in the BC Mile in the World Championships at Churchill Downs on November 2-3.
As it happens, neither the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh in May, the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, nor the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in July were ‘Win and You’re in’ qualifiers for the great meeting, but the Jacques le Marois, in which she was racing both males and older horses for the first time, most certainly was, and you can see from the photograph above what gaining an automatic place meant to her owners.
The Niarchos Family, of course, have been enthusiastic Breeders’ Cup supporters for years. Indeed, as Flaxman Holdings, they lie sixth in the all-time BC prize money table, behind only Godolphin, Juddmonte Farms, Coolmore Partners, Stronach Stables and Allen Paulson. In all they have won seven BC races - six listed as Flaxman Holdings and one as owned by Stavros Niarchos.
Yet it is the Mile itself that will be closest to their hearts, having won that no less than six times (Miesque - third dam of Alpha Centauri - in 1987 and 88, Spinning World 1997, Domedriver 2002, Six Perfections 2003 and Karakontie 2014). That puts them out on their own as the most successful owners in BC Mile history. In second are France’s Wertheimer brothers, who won the race three times - all with Goldikova (2008-10).
Alpha Centauri becomes the seventh international qualifier for the Mile, and she is already a general 2/1 favourite with British bookmakers to take the crown won by World Approval at Del Mar last year. Should she make the trip, she is sure to be one of the big attractions at the championships.
If there had been any danger of the filly being considered merely a fast-ground specialist, that was dispelled by Sunday’s victory, which came on good to soft going, making it the first time this year Alpha Centauri has won on any surface slower than good. The only two poor runs of her career so far have been on very soft ground.
The win (see video below) earned her an official rating of 124, the highest for an Irish 3-year-old filly this century, ahead even of 2016 Cartier European Horse of the Year Minding (122).
The filly has taken her connections on an exciting ride through the season, with all of them benefitting considerably in the TRC Global Rankings.
Sunday’s victory helped the Niarchos Family climb two places to #15 (after a gain of three points). Jockey Colm O’Donoghue (+5pts) rises five places to #67, sire Mastercraftsman (also +5) is now #22 (up from 27) and trainer Jessica Harrington (+7pts) is up 20 places to #65.
That means Harrington is now the second-highest-ranked female trainer in the world, behind only Gai Waterhouse, who is #24 along with training partner Adrian Bott.
And the ride may continue for some time yet. Harrington said on Tuesday at a launch event in Dublin for Irish Champions Weekend next month that the filly may stay in training next season. Her next race is likely to be the G1 Matron Stakes over a mile at Leopardstown on September 15, the first day of Irish Champions Weekend.
Meanwhile, the next three Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re in’ races are all at the York Ebor Festival next week - the Juddmonte International (Longines Turf) on Wednesday, the Darley Yorkshire Oaks (Filly & Mare Turf) on Thursday and the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes (Turf Sprint) on Friday.
Click here for a list of all last week’s biggest TRC Global Rankings points gainers.
Click here for a list of all the week’s Group and Graded winners.