You read it here first, folks. Hermosa runs in the Investec Oaks on Friday. No I wasn’t in Ireland yesterday. I haven’t spoken to Aidan, to any of the owners – or even Harry! But one thing I do know, it’s been done more than once before, writes Tony Stafford.
Then again I’ve just seen (8.30 p.m. Sunday, that’s right I couldn’t wait!) that the Racing Post is talking about Hermosa’s going for the Prix de Diane. Now I can understand the appeal in terms of timing, and also the fact it’s worth considerably more than the Oaks, but it’s a race Aidan has never won.
He has won the Oaks though – seven times in fact, so even if I’m wrong, I’m not going to waste the fruits of my research and if it’s to go to waste well nobody will have died. So here goes!
Admittedly none of Aidan’s seven Epsom Oaks winners has needed to overcome as short a gap as five days. But by the same token none has won the Irish 1,000 Guineas by anything like yesterday’s four lengths. Or indeed having already won the English 1,000 on her return to action.
Four of O’Brien’s seven winners ran in the Irish race. Of the other three, Was finished only third in a Naas Group 3; Qualify was last of 13 in the Newmarket 1,000 before her 50-1 shock and, in May last year, Forever Together prepped in the Cheshire Oaks. There she was an eye-catching runner-up to stable-companion Magic Wand and comprehensively reversed the form at Epsom.
Aidan’s second winner, Imagine (by Sadler’s Wells), won the 2001 Irish 1,000 Guineas by a couple of lengths before her comfortable success as the 3-1 favourite at Epsom. She never ran again. There is a parallel in her case with Hermosa. Imagine raced six times as a two-year-old, all between August 20 and October 14. The admirably-resilient Hermosa had seven runs as a juvenile, the last five also between August and October and all at Group level, mostly Group 1.
The first O’Brien winner had been Shahtoush, in 1998, owned by David and Diane Nagle, who bred the Alzao filly (in association with Ron Con Ltd) and they raced her in partnership with John Magnier.
It might be slightly shocking to know that of the Magnificent seven, only three are by Galileo, predictably the sire of Hermosa. Alexandrova, the 2006 heroine, was also a daughter of Sadler’s Wells, Galileo’s dad, and her renewal coincided with Galileo’s first year with three-year-olds.
There were two in the Oaks field from that first crop, and I’m sure Rae Guest must often hark back to the fact that he trained a filly bought by Emma O’Gorman as a yearling for just 20,000gns at Tattersalls. She was called Guilia and came to the Oaks with an 81 rating. Despite this she started only 8-1 and finished fifth behind Alexandrova, one place behind the 1,000 Guineas winner Speciosa. She was straight up to 100 after that! Mick Channon also had a Galileo filly in that line-up, namely Kassiopeia who was seventh home as a 66-1 shot.
The following day Sixties Icon became the first Galileo colt to run in the Derby. Trained by Jeremy Noseda, he was also 66-1 despite having won a Windsor maiden on his second start. He finished seventh, not much more than four lengths behind Sir Percy in a 17-runner scrum that included five sons of Sadler’s Wells and three by the other Coolmore Derby winner-producing staple, Montjeu.
By that September, the Classic die was cast. True, two each by Sadler’s Wells and Montjeu populated an 11-horse field for that year’s St Leger, run at York while Doncaster was being tidied up. An astonishing five by Galileo dominated the race, starting with the first three, Sixties Icon, maintaining his pioneering role, winning from The Last Drop (Barry Hills) and Red Rocks (Brian Meehan).
When Red Rocks went on to beat a field containing Better Talk Now, English Channel, Scorpion and Hurricane Run – the last two trained by O’Brien – In the Breeders’ Cup Turf race at Churchill Downs at the end of that season the last vestiges of doubt were expunged. Here was the one. Here remains the one!
Of the last four Oaks winners, only the unconsidered Qualify, a bit of a maverick as she was sourced by John Murrell from Anne-Marie O’Brien’s breeding stock, is not by Galileo. This Fastnet Rock filly caught Legatissimo near the line for the blood-bath. Was (2012), Minding three years ago, and Forever Together last year are all daughters of the King.
The outstanding Minding did run in both races, but with a 12-day gap. It was probably a matter of putting the record straight in her case as she’d been beaten as a 4-11 shot at The Curragh having previously won at Newmarket.
Hermosa has the chance – if she is allowed to take it as I believe she still could be – to improve on the Minding record. Certainly I cannot remember any winner of both mile filly Classics, trained by anyone, winning both after making all the running. I thought Ryan Moore’s judgment of pace yesterday was outstanding. And if you are worried that she’ll get the extra half-mile being out of a Pivotal mare you only have to go back two years to find her full-sister Hydrangea winning the Group1 Qipco British Champions Filly and Mare Stakes at Ascot over the trip.
That year O’Brien not only had Hydrangea and Rhododendron, but also Winter, re-located from the retired David Wachman, as a triumvirate that comprised three of the best three-year-old fillies in Europe. Glancing down the list of Friday’s Epsom acceptors, Ballydoyle seems to be reliant on recent Listed winner Pink Dogwood, who clearly must have shown plenty of ability at home but nothing in public to put her in the Classic-potential bracket to date.
Otherwise it’s a case of bit-players that might step forward, so the temptation must be in there somewhere to bring a fast-improving dual Classic winner to tackle the two John Gosden hopes, Anapurna and Mehdaayih.
All eyes this morning will be on the five-day declarations for the Investec Derby to see whether Sir Dragonet or Telecaster or both is supplemented following varying elements of doubt from both the O’Brien and Hughie Morrison camps.
Hughie grew up around racing – his father James owned three Classic winners, among them Scintillate, the 1979 Oaks winner. Coincidentally, the 1,000 Guineas that year was won by One In A Million, with Reprocolor one of the foundation mares of Egon Weinfeld, whose Meon Valley Stud bred both their direct descendants, respectively Anapurna and Telecaster.
It is easy to believe that the trainer would be itching to have the chance of emulating his father and win a Classic. As stated here more than once recently, Castle Down Racing, in whose name Telecaster runs, is the racing name for Meon Valley colts retained having not made their reserve – in his case at 180,000gns. Anapurna meanwhile sports the far better-known black and white of Helena Springfield Ltd, and brother and sister Mark Weinfeld and Helena Ellingsen will be delighted not to have to worry about any supplementary entry fees in the easy Lingfield Oaks Trial winner’s case.
It has been wonderful to see Barry Hills in such great form lately. Years ago we all feared he’d be leaving us. He’s looking and sounding great just now and clearly returned to health, so it was heart-warming that his son Charlie could collect the Irish 2,000 Guineas on Saturday with Phoenix of Spain, three-length winner over Too Darn Hot with Magna Grecia, apparently unhappy on the ground, further behind. Having seen the ease of that win and the quality of the defeated opposition, it might be surprising to note that the winning time was almost a second and a half slower than Hermosa’s.
Barry still has plenty of input into the family business, while it was good to see Simon Whitworth in the winning picture from the Curragh. I’ve still got a framed photo in my office of Simon coming back to scale at Beverley 37 years ago on Charlie Kilgour, the first winner in my old red and white colours, now being put to far better use!
Simon’s dad contacted me out of the blue a couple of years before to ask if I could find an opportunity for his son, who’d broken his leg while at Michael Stoute’s. It was sad to hear that Eric Whitworth, a solicitor from Rochdale, died recently.
Of course we were all looking back at the result of the Vertem Futurity at Doncaster, Phoenix of Spain’s previous run back in October, and earlier form with Too Darn Hot, concluding that he had been over-priced. Didn’t think to look beforehand! Did anyone?
I think Battaash’s win at Haydock in the Amstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes, Charlie’s second big win within half an hour on Saturday, was smoothly achieved. It would have been something of a shock if this Group 1 winner had not been able to cope with the sponsors’ Group 1 winner Mabs Cross in receipt of weight. She also had to concede the same 2lb to Alpha Delphini, who had pipped her in the Nunthorpe last year. In the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot, the Michael Dods filly will be 5lb better with both, giving her a decent chance of revenge on a track which will better suit her strong-running style.