Magical lived up to her name with a spellbinding performance at the Curragh to make the Alwasmiyan Pretty Polly Stakes the fifth Group 1 of a stupendous career.
In doing so, the daughter of Galileo and Classic heroine Halfway To Heaven was completing a treble for the Dubai Duty Free Derby-winning combination of Aidan O’Brien and Seamie Heffernan, who had scored earlier with the unbeaten Napa Valley (1/1) in the Finlay Volvo Cars Race and impressive debutant Houston River (3/1jf) in the Barronstown Stud Irish EBF Colts’ & Geldings’ Maiden.
In all, O’Brien entered the winner’s enclosure seven times throughout the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival but this facile saunter to justify the decision to keep Magical in training as a five-year-old, will assuredly have been among the most satisfying.
Heffernan, who had won on both Magical’s sire and dam, was actually getting the leg up on Magical for the first time in public but they proved a potent match, as the pilot booted his conveyance into the lead out of the stalls.
They set a pretty good tempo over the first three-quarters of a mile of the 10-furlong contest and when Heffernan gave the signal on the home turn, the reaction was instant.
The margin was three lengths at the three pole and quickly doubled until Heffernan eased up and Cayenne Pepper galloped all the way in a notable Oaks warm-up, four and a half lengths
Heffernan was gushing with his plaudits.
“She’s a queen” enthused Heffernan. “She’s been mixing at the top for a while. I rode it like a piece of work and hopefully she’ll improve. She’s top class. She’s a push-button ride in a Group 1. You can’t ask for anymore.
“It’s like riding a car and you’re half-way through the race and you haven’t put your foot on the accelerator. It’s buckets of class. They’re very rare, this type comes along. She’s been competing at the top for a long, long time and still has the will and the attitude and the ability and the flow and the motion of her.
“This one is as good as I’ve ever ridden. I’m in a privileged position at the moment to be steering them around.”
The old ‘Horses for Courses’ adage was reasserted once more as Speak In Colours made it a fourth triumph over the six-furlong route at the Home of the Classics to add the Group 2 Weatherbys Ireland Greenland Stakes to his record.
The five-year-old son of Excelebration was runner-up last year but did enough to take the spoils this time for thriving apprentice Shane Crosse and trainer Joseph O’Brien, who was registering his sixth victory over the festival and third pattern prize.
Prominent throughout, Chantal Consuelo Regalado-Gonazalez’s grey colt kicked off the front just outside the furlong marker and established a sufficient advantage to cling on, with Forever In Dreams rallying once more on the rail and Buffer Zone coming late but falling a head and another head short.
The Paddy Power Rockingham Handicap is invariably an exciting contest but it will be hard to better this year’s renewal, where three horses flashed past the finishing post separated by two short heads at the end of a five-furlong blitz.
Urban Beat (Johnny Murtagh/Ben Coen), Jungle Jane (Willie McCreery/Billy Lee) and Strong Johnson (Kieran Cotter/Colin Keane) went at it hammer and tongs from the off and nothing else ever looked like getting to them.
Neither was willing to give an inch but it was Strong Johnson (5/2f) who followed up his win at this track 15 days previously to prevail and land the €44,250 pot for owner-breeder David Mooney.
Aunt Bridy (6/1) was a first two-year-old triumph since racing’s resumption for Jim Bolger, who is renowned for unleashing smart juveniles at this festival, showing a tremendous attitude to claim the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies’ Maiden.
Odds-on favourite Snowfall almost came down when clipping the winner’s heels as Heffernan tried to go through to move into a gap outside the victor, who was on the rail, and it said a lot for the Camacho debutant that she was still able to knuckle down and hold off the fast-finishing Sister Rosetta and Colin Keane by a short head.
The day’s two concluding contests, the Equine MediRecord Handicap and the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Handicap went the way of progressive Njord (10/1) for Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley, and the hugely impressive Dalton Highway (14/1) for Dermot Weld and Andrew Slattery.
Dubai Duty Free Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Colm McLoughlin was delighted with how a unique and very successful three-day Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival unfolded, with Santiago’s thrilling Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby triumph the highlight of a programme that threw up a slew of wonderful performances – equine and human.
“We are pleased to have once again supported the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival, albeit under very different circumstances this year” said McLoughlin.
“It was important for racing that this weekend festival went ahead and while we were not able to be at The Curragh in person this year, we enjoyed watching the spectacle on TV from Dubai. Congratulations to The Curragh, Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board for staging the event successfully, whilst following all safety protocols.
“Congratulations also to Aidan O’Brian and the team at Coolmore for winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby for a remarkable 14th time.”