World-leading Alpha Centauri has been confirmed for the Group 1 Matron Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend in September, and could race on next year too.
Trainer Jessica Harrington announced the move at the press briefing for Irish Champions Weekend in Dublin on Tuesday, as fellow trainers Aidan and Joseph O’Brien, and Ger Lyons also revealed their plans for Ireland’s most prestigious racing meeting.
Alpha Centauri, the highest ranked three-year-old filly in the Thoroughbred World Rankings, has already won four successive Group 1s this season, landing the Irish 1,000 Guineas in May, the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, Newmarket’s Falmouth Stakes in July, and France’s £885,000 Prix Jacques le Marois in August.
Such is her dominance, that the latest rankings do not even include that last win; that victory at Deauville was her most valuable, and also her first against males, making it by far the most impressive of her short career.
After she won at Deauville on Sunday, her trainer had not committed to a next target, but on Tuesday, she pointed towards a return to racing on home soil for the miler, and delighted all-comers when saying she would continue to race as a four-year-old:
“It looks like Alpha Centauri is probably going to stay in training next season. It was amazing to watch her winning at Deauville on Sunday. She is always doing what is written on the label now, and I just hope I don’t make a nonsense of it.
“She came home from France well and will start off tomorrow and the week before the race she’ll go for a breeze at the Curragh. The timing of the Matron is perfect for her and after travelling to England twice and to France for her last three runs, it’s great to go down the road to Leopardstown for her next race.”
Champion trainer Aidan O’Brien revealed that he could take Alpha Centauri on with “improving” Clemmie, and that Rhododendron and Hydrangea are also likely starters in the Group 1 on September 15.
Clemmie has been soundly beaten by Alpha Centauri in all three outings this season, but O’Brien’s horses have been unwell of late, and the trainer feels they are now coming right again.
“It went through the whole yard, but we have been able to lean on them a bit more now, and that’s a good sign.”
Son Joseph, summed up the over-riding feelings of all Alpha Centauri’s competitors though, when saying:
We might take our chance with Ship Of Dreams if there’s some juice in the ground, to try to nick third place, but I would say second or third place would be a stretch for most against her.
She has the appearance of a colt and is getting a fillies allowance against the older geldings and colts. It’s a bit of steal for her. She’s an outstanding filly.
Aidan O’Brien’s number one Irish Champions Weekend hope is Saxon Warrior, who is bound for the feature event, the Irish Champions Stakes at Leopardstown. The 2,000 Guineas winner will have his final run before that Group 1 at York next week, when he reposes his Coral-Eclipse rival Roaring Lion in the International Stakes.
"It was a huge ask running him in the Eclipse only a week after running in the Irish Derby. We've been kind to him since and doing things very gently. He's been coming along nicely.”
Saxon Warrior is no bigger than 5/1 with Black Type to turn the tables on Roaring Lion once more in next Wednesday’s International Stakes at York, but this is no ordinary horse racing rivalry.
Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion have been battling each other since the start of their careers as two-year-olds in 2017. When they meet on the Knavesmire, it will be the fifth time they have raced together, the score in this match-race set at 2-2.
It began in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last October, Saxon Warrior pipping Roaring Lion by a neck. They met again at Newmarket this May, Saxon Warrior winning the 2,000 Guineas as Roaring Lion finished fifth.
But as their three-year-old careers have progressed, and the race distances increased, Roaring Lion has proved stronger, finishing a place ahead when third in the Epsom Derby, and a neck ahead when winning the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown last time out.
They will meet again at York, and perhaps twice more before the season is over, both holding entries in the Irish Champion Stakes, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and the British Champion Stakes.
Aidan O’Brien cited Tyros Stakes winner Anthony Van Dyck and impressive Galway winner Hermosa as his leaders for the Irish Champions Weekend two-year-old races.
Anthony Van Dyck could be aimed at the Group 1 National Stakes on the second day of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh, while Hermosa is entered for the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes on the same day.
Joseph O’Brien also has an ace up his sleeve, six-length Killarney victor Iridessa poised to trial for the Champions Juvenile Stakes in the Group 2 Debutante Stakes at the Curragh next weekend.
We have a number of entries over Irish Champions Weekend with Latrobe and the likes, but the one I’m probably most excited about is Iridessa. The race at Killarney has worked out well and we’re looking forward to next year with her even.
O’Brien junior intends to run the colt No Needs Never in the National Stakes, and has competition for Iridessa in the shape of impressive Leopardstown maiden winner Pythion. Trainer Ger Lyons has the colt aimed at the Champions Juvenile Stakes, and will also run Curragh winner Viadera, should the filly perform well in the up-coming Debutante Stakes.