Order Of St George regains Irish St Leger in stunning fashion
Nine-length rout helps Aidan O’Brien complete weekend Group One hat-trick
Order Of St George romps home to take the Irish St Leger. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Order Of St George became the first horse to regain the Comer Group Irish St Leger crown with a nine-length rout on Sunday that completed a Group One hat-trick for Aidan O’Brien at this year’s ‘Irish Champions Weekend’.
Churchill might have been a bitter disappointment in Saturday’s QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes, and Gustav Klimt’s absence from the Goffs National Stakes helped leave the way open for Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity, but Ballydoyle’s weekend hat-trick could reverberate through to the end of the year.
It brought O’Brien’s Group One tally so far this season to 17 and he is now 7-4 to finally break Bobby Frankel’s record of 25 Group/Grade One victories in a calendar year.
At times on Sunday a wind- and rain-swept Curragh felt even further than 6,000 miles away from the Californian sunshine of Del Mar where a potentially decisive Breeders’ Cup meeting will be held at the start of November.
However, a hat-trick in just two days could yet prove vital to O’Brien’s chances of overhauling the American legend considering his haul for the whole of August was just two.
Happily led home a Ballydoyle 1-2-3 in the Moyglare Stud Stakes under the trainer’s son Donnacha after the apparent stable No 1 Clemmie was withdrawn before the race due to soft ground conditions getting even softer.
Instead Ryan Moore made a late switch to Magical with a consequent shuffling of jockey arrangements seeing Donnacha O’Brien replace Saturday’s Matron Stakes hero Wayne Lordan on Happily. In a desperate finish Happily edged out Magical by a short head.
After Churchill’s eclipse and getting beaten on Winter in Saturday’s Matron, Moore could have been forgiven for thinking his weekend luck was out. But Order Of St George was in no form for a similar 1-7 shock Leger defeat to last year.
Instead it was like his spectacular 11-length 2015 success as he shot clear to beat Torcedor at odds of 2-5.
“He’s a horse with a lot of ability and that was very straightforward for him,” said Moore, who was winning the Irish Leger for the first time. It was a fourth for O’Brien who nominated either the Melbourne Cup or another attempt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for the star stayer.
Order Of St George was the third part of O’Brien’s famous clean sweep in last year’s Arc and the trainer said: “Over a mile and a half he will be very comfortable if there’s an ease in the ground.”
The winner joined Vintage Crop, Kayf Tara Vinnie Roe and Oscar Schindler in winning the Leger more than once.
Sunday’s going had a lot more than just an ease and the official description on the straight course was changed to “soft to heavy” after the third race, the Derrinstown Flying Five, which saw Caravaggio return to winning form at 9-10 odds.
Delighted with Caravaggio’s return to form, O’Brien’s reaction was still to take Clemmie out of the Moyglare and he explained: “I wanted to run her and we’d have run on soft. But I promised myself if it got heavy we wouldn’t.”
Churchill’s sister could appear next in the Cheveley Park at Newmarket but the Moyglare trio of Happily, Magical and September are all contenders to step up in trip in either the Prix Marcel Boussac or the Fillies Mile.
“It’s amazing the way these things happen,” the champion trainer said after welcoming his son back to the Moyglare winners enclosure for a second year running. “Donnacha gave her a great ride. He was delighted to be on Happily. In fairness they [the jockeys] never question anything and that was just the way it happened.”
Gustav Klimt’s National Stakes defection due to a stone bruise saw Beckford start a 6-4 favourite to give Gordon Elliott a first Group One success. However, he came up almost four lengths short of Verbal Dexterity, who thrived on testing conditions just as he did when winning his maiden at HQ.
It was a fourth win in the National Stakes for Jim Bolger and his previous three all proceeded to also land the Dewhurst.
“He’s as good any of the ones that won the Dewhurst for us,” said Bolger. “I can see him being champion European two-year-old. He’s the real deal. He has a marvellous temperament, great looks. He has everything and is the complete package.”
Shamreen completed back-to-back wins in the Group Two Blandford Stakes to follow up Eziyra’s Enterprise Stakes victory on Saturday for the Aga Khan and Dermot Weld.
“I think she’s entitled to have a crack at a Group One now so the Prix de l’Opera at Chantilly would a be a logical target,” Weld said.
Panstarr brought ‘Champions Weekend,’ and this year’s Curragh season, to a close with a gutsy handicap success under Rory Cleary.