The Joseph O’Brien trained Magellan Strait sprang a 150-1 shock to scoop Sunday’s €600,000 Friends of the Curragh Irish Cesarewitch.
On the second leg of a bumper big-money weekend at the Curragh, bookmakers were in financial clover after the complete outsider of the 30 runners collected one of Europe’s biggest handicap prizes.
At the end of two miles in desperate weather conditions, Magellan Strait held on by half a length from the unlucky runner-up Falcon Eight who went off a mere 40-1. The winner’s stable companion Dawn Rising was third.
Ryan Moore got back from riding in Sydney the day before in time to ride the 18-5 favourite Tower Of London but never figured and managed only ninth.
Instead, it was O’Brien’s cousin, the 7lb apprentice Hugh Horgan, who secured the biggest prize of his fledgling riding career.
Son of the former jump jockey Trevor Horgan, the big-race winning rider managed to get a tune out of Magellan Strait that hadn’t been obvious beforehand and the four-year-old was always towards the front of the big field.
“We were well headed in the straight but he fought back hard,” Horgan said. “He works quite well at home. Everything went his way today and he was on a going day.”
Horgan was in trouble with the stewards afterwards and got a four-day suspension for his use of the whip on the winner. Dawn Rising’s jockey Declan McDonogh also got four days for his use of the whip while Falcon Eight’s rider Jake Coen received four days for what was judged careless riding in the closing stages.
On a day when the weather conspired to produce stereotypical National Hunt conditions, the Curragh’s boss insisted Irish racing got “bang for its buck” on a weekend featuring colossal prize money.
Saturday was marked by a spectacular winner of Europe’s richest two-year-old race, the restricted Goffs Million worth a massive €1,232,000 in all, as Paddy Twomey’s newcomer One Look bolted up by six lengths.
It put a perfect seal on a red-letter day for Twomey and jockey Billy Lee who also landed the Group Two Beresford Stakes with Deepone on the same programme.
The latter’s first prize in a traditional classic trial got dwarfed by the €616,000 jackpot scooped by One Look’s syndicate ownership which are based in the Far East.
On the eve of this week’s Orby Yearling Sale, Curragh chief executive Brian Kavanagh said on Sunday the Million result was a good outcome for Goffs in particular.
The Million is restricted to graduates of the Orby Sale and in 2024 the initiative will be extended to two races worth a minimum €1.5 million between them.
“From a Goffs’ point of view, it creates a buzz for them and they’re very happy with the race,” Kavanagh said.
Sunday’s action had to contend with rain and strong winds which inevitably had an impact on attendance levels.
Compared to last week’s Listowel festival crowds, where Friday’s Ladies’ Day throng of 27,801 alone contributed to an overall attendance of more than 92,000, the Curragh presented a bare contrast.
Nevertheless, Kavanagh noted a 21 per cent increase in attendances at Irish racing’s HQ so far in 2023 and how numerous disappointed connections of horses that failed to make the Cesarewitch’s final field underlined the popularity of a contest with a ceiling rating of 110.
“The weather has hammered us today. It’s a small crowd but that’s no surprise if anyone was looking at the forecast last night,” Kavanagh added. “But you have to look at it throughout the whole year and our ambition is to try and grow prizemoney across the board.”
One Look, a €65,000 yearling purchase, was so impressive on her debut that she’s now as low as 10-1 for next year’s 1,000 Guineas.
The Newmarket classic could also be on the radar of Caught U Looking who landed the Group Three Weld Park Stakes for trainer Noel Meade.
The unfashionably bred daughter of dual-Derby hero Harzand got the better of Sakti and Brilliant in a close finish to earn 33-1 Guineas quotes.
“I know she only just won but obviously Ger [Lyons, trainer of Sakti] thinks quite a lot of his and you are always running against something decent from Ballydoyle. It’s hard to win a stakes race in Ireland. Everything is open now and we can dream a bit now. I put her in the Guineas the other day and we’ll enter her in the Oaks as well. She’s in the Fillies’ Mile next month but I wouldn’t imagine that will happen now, we’ll wait and let her mature,” Meade said.
Sunday’s Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp could be next for Go Athletico who got the better of a sustained duel with Big Gossey in the Group Three Westgrove Renaissance Stakes.
Trainer Ado McGuinness and jockey Ronan Whelan won the Abbaye with A Case Of You in 2021 and are keen to give Go Athletico a quick turnaround with ground conditions allow.
“He’s in the Abbaye. We ran him here because the forecast was giving it to be quite a dry week. He might travel, but if it is dry we won’t run him,” said McGuinness.