Alpha Centauri a Royal Ascot candidate for Jessica Harrington

Impressive Naas victory suggests trainer could secure maiden success at June festival

 Jessica Harrington: her cross-code mastery has long been established. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie

Jessica Harrington: her cross-code mastery has long been established. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie

 

Only weeks after breaking new ground with victories in both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Irish Grand National, Jessica Harrington could have a perfect candidate to try to secure a first Royal Ascot success after Alpha Centauri showed brilliance to win at Naas on Sunday.

The giant grey filly justified 8-11 odds in style to land the Listed Coolmore Sprint Stakes by five lengths on “Royal Ascot Trials Day”.

Just as on her course debut at the start of the month, Alpha Centauri beat both the Ballydoyle filly Actress and Shapes. But if she was impressive first time out then she looked to step up again here, and Alpha Centauri is now a 3-1 favourite for the Albany Stakes.

Harrington was reluctant to be pinned down to firm plans, but she has conceded before that she is ambitious to win at flat racing’s most prestigious meeting and admitted that if Alpha Centauri does go to Ascot it will be for the Albany.

“The great thing is she got a lead and learned today. And when she went she just went,” said the veteran trainer who just two months ago won steeplechasing’s “blue riband” with her first runner Sizing John. She also won a first Irish National at Easter with Our Duke.

Her cross-code mastery has long been established. She has won a juvenile Group 1 with Pathfork in the National Stakes, but Alpha Centauri belies her giant frame by exhibiting real precocity.

Easy to train

“She’s lovely, so easy to train and has a real stride on her,” Harrington said, although any Ascot doubts might revolve around Colm O’Donoghue’s post-race comment that “she loved the ground today”. The Naas going was “good to yielding”.

Harrington goes back to the jumps at Punchestown on Monday with half a dozen starts, and Jetez can recoup festival losses in the bumper where Dermot Weld’s newcomer Social Treasure carries the renowned Moyglare Stud colours.

Forgotten Rules carried the Moyglare silks to win a bumper on his first racecourse start at Punchestown three years ago.

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