STAYERS on the flat may not be as fashionable as they used to be for the breeding sector, but among racing fans, the good ones are as popular as ever, as Stradivarius has shown.
Kyprios managed to see off that veteran and many more on his way to no less than four Group 1s in three different countries in 2022, and if there was a flat horse of the year award in this country, he’d have won it hands down. His rating of 124 has him joint seventh in the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings and he is comfortably the best around in his stayer category.
By Galileo and out of a top-class Moyglare broodmare in Polished Gem, the four-year-old came from relative obscurity to emerge as the best stayer around for his renowned owner-breeder operation who teamed up with the might of the Coolmore partners.
An unbeaten season began with a comfortable win over his half-sister Search For A Song in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan and then proceeded to go from strength-to-strength on each of his five next starts with his Group 1 breakthrough coming at no less a level than a Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, where he saw off Mojo Star in a brilliant four-way finish to give Aidan O’Brien his eighth win in the race.
Rarely do the big clashes in racing fully live up to their billing but that wasn’t the case in the Goodwood Cup where Kyprios came through late on to deny Stradivarius and Trueshan. He went on to add a classic success to his resumé when moving down to a mile and six furlongs where he saw off Hamish in the Irish St Leger on Irish Champions Weekend.
Those three wins came by a half-length, a neck and three-quarters of a length which is a staple of many a good stayer. A lot of the best ones only just do enough and this becomes more apparent the more they race.
Yet the style of Kyprios’s final win in the Prix du Cadran could not have been any more out of sync, given he won by all of 20 lengths despite drifting right across the expansive ParisLongchamp straight.
Described as an “honest-to-God type of horse” by his trainer after that win and with only 10 starts to his name, the potential is there for Kyprios to make into one of the best stayers we’ve seen.
It has been a marvellous year for his owners Moyglare Stud but if you rewind back to May, it seemed far more likely that Homeless Songs would emerge as a multiple Group 1 winner through the summer and autumn. That didn’t transpire but you can take nothing away from her scintillating performance in the Irish 1000 Guineas, where she had the subsequent Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Turf Fillies and Mares winner Tuesday back in second.
Quick ground prevented Dermot Weld from unleashing her again through the heart of the summer and unfortunately when she returned in the Matron Stakes and then Sun Chariot, she couldn’t get anywhere near the same level. Hopefully she will be given the chance to next season.
That will be the case for Magical Lagoon, who was excellently handled by Jessica Harrington to win the Irish Oaks, where she gave her trainer a second classic success.
She also gave her owner Zhang Yuesheng a first classic win in Europe, which was significant given his investment in Irish racing bloodstock. The daughter of Galileo, bought from breeders Coolmore by Michael Donohoe for 305,000 guineas, was deliberately kept away from Epsom and instead routed to Royal Ascot for the Ribblesdale where she toughed out a memorable victory.
Her success at the Curragh then may have been fortunate - a bird strike to the plane intended to bring Emily Upjohn over to Ireland meant she never travelled - but she took full advantage, giving Shane Foley his third classic win.
Aidan O’Brien claimed a record 41st British classic with Tuesday, who just managed to see off the aforementioned John Gosden-trained filly in a thrilling finish in the Oaks. She further enhanced her reputation with an impressive win in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mares Turf.
Our other two classics went for export. The Irish Derby was won in tremendous style by Ralph Beckett’s Westover who gained significant compensation after a luckless run at Epsom and gave champion jockey Colin Keane a season highlight win.
Similarly, Native Trail also gained his classic in the Irish 2000 Guineas off the back of a defeat in the British equivalent. It was another Group 1 win for Charlie Appleby in Ireland but his first in the race, and a first win for Godolphin in the race since Dubawi in 2005.
So when the Camelot colt was ruled out of the Derby shortly after his highly promising run in the 2000 Guineas in May, it was a huge blow to all at Ballydoyle.
In truth, the muscular injury he sustained could well have seen his season wrote off but he was meticulously brought back to full health and potential under the tutelage of O’Brien, and his win in the Irish Champion Stakes was a huge achievement for all concerned at Ballydoyle.
It was the training performance of the season and there should be more to come from Luxembourg as well.
This year, it seems significant that O’Brien had four Group 1-winning juvenile colts: Blackbeard, Little Big Bear, Auguste Rodin and Victoria Road. The early retirement of the admirable Blackbeard was a big blow after he had won the Prix Morny and impressed even more in the Middle Park but in Little Big Bear and Auguste Rodin, O’Brien has the respective favourites for the 2000 Guineas and Derby. Auguste Rodin’s emergence is hugely significant, given he is by Deep Impact, who had been hugely impactful in Japan before he passed away, and out of a Galileo mare.
He possibly won in spite of the heavy ground at Doncaster, and rewarded O’ Brien’s judgment to take a chance on that surface, taking the view that the experience would be very beneficial with his future in mind.
O’Brien was notably bullish about the prospects of Little Big Bear when he hosted the press at Ballydoyle in April and he was proven right with that colt’s wins in the Windsor Castle Stakes, Anglesey Stakes and then the Phoenix, where he blew away his opposition by seven lengths.
He gave his trainer a remarkable 17th win in that six-furlong Group 1 and is the latest star for No Nay Never who had another big season.
O’Brien had to wait until the Breeders’ Cup to saddle his first Group/Grade 1-winning juvenile filly with Meditate, who had a big season, but her win in Keeneland perhaps only bolstered the prospects of her Moyglare Stud Stakes conqueror Tahiyra even further.
That Aga Khan-owned filly looked sensational on what was only her second start, should take a high order among the best three-year-old fillies next year and indeed stands clear at the top of the market for the 1000 Guineas.
The other juvenile Group 1 in Ireland went to Joseph O’Brien’s Al Riffa, who gave double champion apprentice Dylan Browne McMonagle his finest moment yet in the National Stakes.
Donnacha O’Brien’s quality over quantity approach continues to come up trumps as he sent out the fourth Group 1 winner of his career through Proud And Regal who took the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud in late October.
PADDY Twomey says he doesn’t take much heed of his own strike rate statistics but they would make for very enjoyable reading if he did.
The Tipperary trainer is all about progressing his horses race by race and such a yearning for improvement has extended to his overall output. Seven winners in Ireland in 2018 became 11 in 2019, then 16 in 2020, then 19 in 2021 and now 32 this year. For the last two seasons he has had a remarkable 30% strike rate.
He achieved his first listed win in 2019, his first Group 3 and Group 2 wins in 2021 and this year he sent out not one but two Group 1 winners.
La Petite Coco gave him the breakthrough in the Pretty Polly Stakes, though the result was tainted somewhat by the demotion of his Rosscarbery, who had finished third but was found to have carried an incorrect weight, but through no fault of Twomey or the filly’s rider Wayne Lordan, which was confirmed recently by the IHRB who apologised to connections for the incident.
La Petite Coco went on to finish a highly respectable third to subsequent Arc heroine Alpinista in the Yorkshire Oaks before being sold for one million guineas at the Tattersalls December Mare Sale.
At the same sale, Twomey’s Pearls Galore was bought back by her vendor for 2.1 million guineas, after she had made a much-deserved breakthrough at the top level in the Matron Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend.
Those two Group 1 wins helped propel Twomey into fifth place in the championship table and you wouldn’t bet against him going further up the table next year.
Elsewhere, Ger Lyons notably moved above Jessica Harrington to finish third, repeating a feat he first achieved in 2017. Interestingly, he did so without a Group 1 win and just one Group 2 success, remarkably scoring 20 times at listed level.
Harrington (fourth), Johnny Murtagh (sixth), Willie McCreery (13th) and Ado McGuinness (10th) enjoyed solid seasons, with the latter remarkably claiming the Ahonoora Handicap at Galway for the third year in a row.
It was disappointing to see some prominent trainers fade back numerically this term, notably Dermot Weld (seventh) and Jim Bolger (ninth). Weld had two Group 1 wins, but his 23 winners for the year is his lowest total since the 1980s and came from a 7% strike rate from just 283 runs. Bolger also had his worst year tally in four decades with 29 winners.
There were some outstanding achievements by the smaller yards, perhaps most notably by Willie Browne and Brian Duffy. Browne, aged 76, emerged with a creditable Breeders’ Cup contender in Spirit Gal when she won a listed contest at Dundalk.
At the other end of the age spectrum, Duffy sent out Magic Chegaga for a magic win in the fiercely competitive Colm Quinn BMW Mile at Galway. Bought by Duffy for her syndicate for just €12,500, Magic Chegaga was recently sold on for 185,000 guineas after holding her form at Group 3 level on her preceding run after Galway.
Super State the highlight in Irish success at Ascot
STATE Of Rest was already a phenomenal horse prior to Royal Ascot, having scooped Group/Grade 1 wins on three different continents but he managed to enhance his record ever more with a memorable win in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, in a victory that owed much to the craft of his young jockey Shane Crosse.
The 20-year-old was somewhat frustrated leaving the Curragh having ridden the four-year-old to finish fourth to Alenquer in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. As that race transpired, he ended up in an unfavourable position before catching the eye with his finishing run.
At Ascot, Crosse rode a completely different race from the front, getting his fractions spot on against two of the all time greats in Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori. It was his first ever time riding the round course at Ascot but already his fourth Group 1 success.
State Of Rest and Kyprios were the standout performers for Ireland at the royal meeting, which also included important building block wins for Little Big Bear, Meditate and Magical Lagoon.
In all Aidan O’Brien had five winners which saw him land his 11th leading trainer award at the meeting and bring his total haul to 81 winners.
Ryan Moore, who has ridden exceptionally all season, was at his best at the meeting also, particularly on Broome in the Hardwicke, which helped his tally to seven winners in all, comfortably clear of his colleagues for the week.
A GLOOMY and wet Monday afternoon at Galway in October was the chosen time for Kevin Manning to hang up his saddle and those closest to him weren’t surprised by his choice of setting/timing in the slightest.
Manning has always been an understated character and done all his talking through his riding on the track, which has seen success at the highest level over four decades around the world.
His partnership with his father-in-law Jim Bolger has been one of the most recognised in Irish racing history and in all he scored 36 Group 1 wins. Notably he marked his Irish Derby success on Trading Leather as his highlight win.
At 55, he is remarkably nearly twice as old as both Colin Keane and Billy Lee, who provided an absorbing side note to the end of the flat season with their tussle to be champion jockey.
Keane had ran away with the title last year, with a record 141 winners which left him with 58 winners to spare over his nearest pursuer but it was nowhere as comfortable this time around with both men going tit for tat for the last two months of the championship.
Frustratingly for Lee, the season ended prematurely when a ban ruled him out of the final two fixtures of the season which ultimately left him three adrift, but he has had a fantastic year, backed up by the likes of Paddy Twomey, Ken Condon and Willie McCreery.
Dylan Browne McMonagle had another fine year, with a Group 1 National Stakes win among his 49 winners in the championship which saw him comfortably land a second successive champion apprentice title, 23 wins ahead of Mikey Sheehy, who also fared very well, riding out his claim before scooping a Group 3 success in the Staffordstown Stakes.
Of those towards the top, Ben Coen’s 53 winners inside the championship was most noteworthy as it was enough to propel him into fifth place overall.