Irish Champions Weekend at The Curragh finished with four Group 1s and Search For A Song retaining her Irish St Leger crown for trainer Dermot Weld.
It was a big day for the trainer, who also sent Tarnawa over to France for big race success in the Prix Vermeille. Winless since the Irish Leger 12 months ago, Search For A Song didn’t exactly have an ideal prep.
Previously running over inadequate trips, she almost slipped up on the bend in the Munster Oaks. Search For A Song was also in season and couldn’t run in the Irish St Leger Trial.
Despite that, Oisin Orr steered her to a successful defence returned by bookies at 7/1. After holding Search For A Song up early, she made steady progress off the pace.
When pushed along in third after two out, she then went second approaching the final furlong. The way in which Search For A Song stayed on well inside the last and asserted for a two-length victory over Ebor Handicap hero Fujaira Prince showed tests of stamina really are her forte.
Tough and consistent veteran Twilight Payment, again the winner of the Curragh Cup this term, was just a further neck behind in third. That front trio pulled three lengths and upwards clear of the remainder in the Irish St Leger field.
Favourite Sovereign could only come sixth. Weld reached for a hood and successfully applied it to Search For A Song. Her handler is now tied with Vincent O’Brien for most Irish Leger winners on nine apiece.
This was a first Group 1 victory for Orr who has just turned 23. Weld’s backing of the young jockey paid off here in what hasn’t been an easy season at times for the yard.
Glass Slippers gets Flying Five Stakes success
Earlier on this Irish Champions Weekend Curragh card, Glass Slippers warmed up for a defence of her Prix de l’Abbaye crown in the Flying Five Stakes. This was a second Group 1 win for the Kevin Ryan trained filly.
Her handler’s reputation for having top sprinters once again looks justified. After chasing the leaders on the far side where the pace was, Glass Slippers made headway into second approaching the final furlong.
She then came under a ride from Tom Eaves and hit the front 100 yards from home. Glass Slippers kept on well for a half-length victory over fellow British raider Keep Busy from fellow Yorkshire trainer John Quinn.
The first six in the Flying Five came home at roughly half-a-length intervals. Glass Slippers, previously second to King’s Stand and Nunthorpe Stakes winner Battaash at Glorious Goodwood, was sent off at 9/2 here.
It was about this time last year that she got a breakthrough Group win over in France. When Glass Slippers went on to follow-up in the Abbaye, but wasn’t particularly fancied on either occasion.
Bookmakers are taking no chances with her retaining her crown with William Hill going 6/1 about a successful defence. Battaash remains a short-price favourite for the Abbaye which he won when it was staged at Chantilly in 2017.
Elsewhere on Irish Champions Weekend, Shale reversed form with Pretty Gorgeous in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes. That result in the 7f juvenile contest leaves next year’s 1000 Guineas betting wide open.
It was more elite glory for young trainer Donnacha O’Brien following on from Fancy Blue winning the Prix de Diane in France and Nassau Stakes.
The Vincent O’Brien National Stakes, meanwhile went to brother Joseph. Thunder Moon was well-backed in a hotly competitive Group 1 despite high-profile absentee Battleground.
Analysis: Search For A Song needed longer trip
Jamie Clark, Horsebetting.com Editor
Weld mentioned sending Search For A Song to France later this autumn. If that means the Prix Royallieu for fillies and mares at Longchamp, then that could steal the show on the opening day of Arc weekend in Paris.
I see an awful lot of depth to the market principals there. Last year’s Royallieu third Enbihaar has not only retained her Lillie Langtry Stakes crown at Glorious Goodwood, but stepped out of her own sex and won the Yorkshire Cup over further.
The favourite now has five Group 2 wins to her name, but it’s success at the highest level connections crave. Also in contention for the Royallieu is Park Hill Stakes scorer Pista – another winner on this memorable week for Joseph O’Brien.
Search For A Song is now 2-2 over the trip in Group 1 company. The form of both her Irish St Leger wins holds up pretty well too, so SportNation are a top-price 13/2 about her for the Royallieu.
With so much elite action on Irish Champions Weekend, I can’t let disappointments in the Blandford Stakes go. One Voice maybe didn’t like the drying ground and Lemista, my each-way selection, never landed a blow.
Honours went to Cayenne Pepper who finally delivered on her juvenile promise. A string of solid efforts this season without winning gave you to wonder. Jessica Harrington ended Irish Champions Weekend with three victories.
This two-day dual venue meeting, despite no racegoers, really delivered. The action at Leopardstown yesterday did not disappoint, and The Curragh more than kept its end up. I tipped two more winners too!
We have but one day as the official end to the Flat season in Britain. Perhaps, the BHA could learn a thing or two from their colleagues in the Emerald Isle.