Empress Josephine gives Aidan O’Brien a 10th Irish 1,000 Guineas win

Seamie Heffernan and his 14-1 shot hold off stablemate Joan Of Arc in Curragh thriller

Seamie Heffernan and Empress Josephine (navy silks) get the better of Ryan Moore on Joan Of Arc. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Seamie Heffernan and Empress Josephine (navy silks) get the better of Ryan Moore on Joan Of Arc. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

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Aidan O’Brien secured a 10th Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas success on Sunday when Empress Josephine pounced late to edge out her stable companion Joan Of Arc in a thrilling finish.

A day after Jim Bolger’s one-two in the 2,000 Guineas, his former protégé pulled off the same feat in the fillies classic with once again only a short-head in the difference.

Ryan Moore’s frustrating run of being on the ‘wrong’ Ballydoyle big-race runner continued as O’Brien’s No 2 rider Seamus Heffernan secured his own fifth victory in the fillies classic.

The 14-1 Empress Josephine avenged family honour as her illustrious sister, Minding, was dramatically beaten as a 4-11 favourite five years previously.

A ‘Francophile’ finish delivered a familiar outcome this time however as 24 years after landing his very first classic in the same race O’Brien emerged on top once again.

Including the St Leger it was his 45th Curragh classic with Heffernan on board 11 of them.

If Rory Cleary’s hugely popular success on Mac Swiney 24 hours earlier was unlikely then Heffernan has carved out a stellar career as perhaps the sport’s ultimate back-up rider.

Imagine in the 1,000 Guineas 20 years previously was the first of his classics for O’Brien with whom he has worked since both started their careers with Bolger and PJ Finn.

“I’m delighted to be on this one. It’s my fifth Guineas. I’m as hungry as ever,” insisted the 48-year-old veteran rider.

“I had a willing partner. I should have won well. I got (knocked) sideways two down and it knocked her off balance. I was a lucky winner, but I should have won well,” he added.

On the back of Mother Earth’s victory at Newmarket, the one-two finish underlined the strength in depth of the classic fillies in Ballydoyle this year.

How they’re split up this summer will be intriguing although O’Brien suggested Joan Of Arc could be upped in trip after her gallant effort for a tilt at the French Oaks next month.

“She (Empress Josephine) might for the Coronation Stakes but we’ll see what the lads want to do,” he said. “We were going to step Joan Of Arc up to ten furlongs after today and she might go for the French Oaks.”

Seamie Heffernan celebrates his 1,000 Guineas win on Empress Josephine. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Seamie Heffernan celebrates his 1,000 Guineas win on Empress Josephine. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

There was no perfect 28th birthday present for Joseph O’Brien whose 15-8 favourite Pretty Gorgeous was always hung wide and faded to finish seventh.

Instead it was No Speak Alexander and the 125-1 outsider Belle Image that filled the frame.

Noel Meade’s 50 year training career finally includes a Group 1 flat success after Helvic Dream’s own late pounce on Broome paid off in style in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

On winter National Hunt type ground the 8-1 shot was an apt winner for the former eight-times champion jumps trainer.

Meade, 70, has come close to major success on the flat in the past, including finishing fourth in the 1998 Epsom Derby with the 150-1 shot, Sunshine Street.

However persistence eventually won the day as Colin Keane delivered a masterful stalking ride to deny the odds-on favourite by a short head.

“I’ve had a number of horses placed in Guineas, and a fourth in the Epsom Derby, but I can die happy now!” a delighted Meade said.

“They are so easy to train compared to jumpers. I’m always joking with flat trainers that they’re getting away with murder.

“You don’t have to train flat horses to stay or to jump and there is not nearly as many injuries.

“I’ve always said the Sheikh Mohammed should have sent Willie (Mullins) 200 horses years ago and got him out of the way!” he added.

Johnny Murtagh’s glittering riding career contained over 100 Group 1 successes including three in the Epsom Derby.

He could have a shot at winning racing’s ‘Blue Riband’ as a trainer in less than a fortnight after Earlswood earned 33-1 Derby quotes through a gutsy Gallinule Stakes victory.

Murtagh received the colt from old ally John Oxx after the latter’s retirement last year and he said: “He’s entered at Epsom but there is free entry into the Irish Derby after winning this race so that’s another option. I’ll talk with the owner and we’ll decide what to do.”

After the Gallinule Stakes, Guineas winning rider Seamus Heffernan got a six day suspension for using his whip with excessive frequency on the fifth horse, Matchless.

Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas winner Rory Cleary got a similar six day ban for excessive frequency on Mac Swiney in the big race.

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