Oxley filly Pretty Gorgeous set to star on Day 2 of Champions Weekend

Pretty Gorgeous wins the G2 Debutante Stakes at the Curragh last month from Shale, who is likely to be her biggest threat back there in the Moyglare on Sunday. Photo: Pat Healy/focusonracing.com

Two of the four Group 1s at a star-studded Curragh on Day 2 of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend on Sunday are part of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge.

The Moyglare Stud Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five, promoted to the top level for 2018, offer fees-paid berths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and Turf Sprint respectively.

Although Aidan O’Brien makes a habit of winning the Moyglare, his sons dominate the betting this time as Pretty Gorgeous (trained by Joseph) and Shale (trained by Donnacha) clash for the third time. 

The score is one each, but Pretty Gorgeous is set to start hot favourite here after being made market leader for next year’s 1000 Guineas following last month’s fluent course-and-distance victory in G2 company. The French-bred daughter of Lawman carries the colours of leading U.S. owner-breeder John C Oxley, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2001 with Monarchos.

Several well-known sprinters meet for the Flying Five, headed by Que Amoro and A’Ali, second and fourth behind the mighty Battaash in the G1 Nunthorpe last month. A’Ali may have unfinished business at the Breeders’ Cup after he was stymied by a wide draw when well fancied in last year’s Juvenile Turf Sprint.

The two other G1s on the card are the Comer Group International Irish St Leger and Ireland’s top 2-year-old race, the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes. Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby, successful in the latter contest with Quorto and Pinatubo in the last two years, bids for a hat-trick with unbeaten Master Of The Seas

It won’t be easy, with Battleground and Lucky Vega among rivals in what looks the hottest juvenile contest of the year in Europe so far featuring the first three in the market for next year’s 2000 Guineas.

Moyglare Stud Stakes/Flying Five: a bit of context

History: A G1 since 1983, the Moyglare is Ireland’s premier race for 2-year-old fillies. The seven-furlong contest reliably attracts the nation’s top juveniles among the female division - as evinced by a list of recent winners including Minding and Love, who both went on to win the 1000 Guineas and Oaks in England for Aidan O’Brien.

Formerly held at Phoenix Park, the Flying Five was only a listed race until the late 1980s; raised to the highest level in 2018, it is Ireland’s only G1 sprint for 3-year-olds and older horses. The Mark Wallace-trained Benbaun made the race his own with a hat-trick between 2005 and 2007.

Star turn: Minding (2016) – a step into the big time for a filly destined to become one of the best ever trained by Aidan O’Brien. Ridden by Seamie Heffernan, the wonderful daughter of Galileo was much less fancied than her stablemate Ballydoyle – the name says it all about the esteem in which that one was held – but she scored by a comfortable three-quarter-length margin for the first of seven G1 wins in a brilliant career in which she was a champion at both two and three and Cartier European Horse of the Year in 2016.

Most Moyglare wins since 1973 (trainer): Aidan O’Brien (9) – Sequoyah (2000), Quarter Moon (2001), Necklace (2003), Rumplestiltskin (2005), Misty for Me (2010), Maybe (2011), Minding (2015), Happily (2017), Love (2019)

Most Moyglare wins since 1973 (jockey): Christy Roche (4) – Tender Camilla (1974), Petipa (1975), Daness (1979), Arctique Royale (1980)

Most Flying Five wins since 1985 (trainer): Dermot Weld (5) – Committed (1985), Flowing (1991, 1992), Tropical (1993, 1994)

Most Flying Five wins since 1985 (jockey): Mick Kinane (6) – Committed (1985), Flowing (1991), Tropical (1993, 1994), Ishiguru (2001), Ringmoor Down (2004)

Breeders’ Cup Challenge

The Moyglare is the first qualifying event of 2020 offering the winner an automatic fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland on November 6; the Flying Five is a ‘Win and You’re In’ race for the Turf Sprint a day later. A minimum travel allowance of $40,000 will also be provided for all starters based outside North America.

Already qualified: Juvenile Fillies Turf (0); Turf Sprint (3): Hello Youmzain (Diamond Jubilee, Royal Ascot), Oleksandra (Jaipur, Belmont), Battaash (Nunthorpe, York)

Breeders’ Cup past performance

Although last year’s Moyglare winner, Love, did not travel to Santa Anita, the race had plenty of significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf. The Roger Varian-trained Daahyeh was runner-up in both contests (having been sent off favourite for both). Albigna, sixth at the Curragh, was fourth in the States.

No previous Moyglare winner has gone on to success at the Breeders’ Cup – indeed, Sky Lantern and Happily were both well beaten in the States, but Alice Springs was runner-up in both races for Aidan O’Brien in 2015, while September was third in both races for him two years later.

Havana Grey, the Flying Five winner two years ago, was never a factor when down the field in the Turf Sprint, a race in which European visitors as a whole have a dismal record.

Last year’s principles, the Aidan O’Brien pair Fairyland and So Perfect, didn’t go to America.

Top contenders for 2020

Pretty Gorgeous (Joseph O’Brien/Declan McDonagh) — climbed to head of 2-year-old filly division in G2 Debutante over course and distance when running on strongly for decisive victory over Shale (who had beaten her when they met previously); “Sky could be the limit for her,” said trainer.

Shale (Donnacha O’Brien/Ryan Moore) - Galileo filly is only horse to have beaten Pretty Gorgeous but was unable to confirm the form last time; better ground could be in her favour and Moore rides this one for Coolmore seemingly in preference to several Aidan O’Brien trainees.

Make A Challenge (Denis Hogan/Joe Doyle) — popular Irish sprinter steps up to G1 level in the Flying Five after four listed wins in seven starts since resumption of racing; only a length behind A’Ali in Sapphire Stakes here in July and seemingly still improving.

Que Amoro (Michael Dods/Paul Mulrennan) — progressive four-year-old filly for specialist sprint trainer who produced lifetime best on latest start when giving the mighty Battaash a fright in the G1 Nunthorpe; would appreciate the ground drying out a bit.

A’Ali (Simon & Ed Crisford/Colin Keane) — four-time G2 winner has a course-and-distance success to his name and is regarded as a G1 winner waiting to happen; yet another solid effort in fourth behind Battaash in Nunthorpe but promises to be better suited by this test.

Glass Slippers (Kevin Ryan/Tom Eaves) - last year’s Prix de l’Abbaye winner is rounding into form again; good second to Battaash at Goodwood latest on ground quicker than ideal.

What they say

  • Michael Dods (trainer of Que Amoro): “She might have to run on slightly easier ground than she’d prefer – but we may have to take that chance, with it being a Group 1. There is the Newbury race on Ayr Gold Cup day she could run in – but we’d be weather-watching before that, looking for fast ground.”
  • Simon Crisford (trainer of A’Ali): “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. I think he’ll get better as he gets older, as most sprinters do. He’s reasonably lightly raced and he’s a very sound colt. He’s grown an inch this summer and I think he’ll grow a bit more. He’s much stronger now and he takes his racing very well.”
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