September 29, 2023

Fairyland, Love score Breeders’ Cup berths but Pinatubo’s the Curragh star

Pinatubo and jockey James Doyle win the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 22, 2019 (c) Ascot Racecourse

On the heels of four wins on the first day of Irish Champions Weekend, trainer Aidan O’Brien captured both Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events at the Curragh on Sunday. Fairyland secured a spot in the Turf Sprint (G1) by withstanding stablemate So Perfect in the Flying Five (G1), and Love’s Moyglare Stud (G1) success included a berth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1).

But the performance of the day came from Godolphin’s homebred Pinatubo, who stretched nine lengths clear in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1) to remain perfect from five starts. Trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick both said afterward that they’d never had such a brilliant two-year-old.

Pinatubo has upped the ante in every appearance. The son of Shamardal debuted over Wolverhampton’s Tapeta, created an even better impression in the Woodcote at Epsom, and stamped himself as well above average when breaking the juvenile course record in the seven-furlong Chesham at Royal Ascot. Pinatubo was explosive in his five-length conquest of the Vintage (G2) at Glorious Goodwood, only to excel himself again here.

The prohibitive odds-on favorite, Pinatubo traveled supremely well just off the pace, moved up of his own volition, and struck the front as though looking for competition. Once leveling off in earnest, he drew right away from O’Brien’s well regarded Armory, the second choice who was a distant second best, a neck up on Coventry (G2)-winning stablemate Arizona.

Pinatubo was as sensational on the clock, speeding seven furlongs in 1:21.82 on the good surface. By comparison, two-year-old filly Love needed 1:24.28 to finish the Moyglare Stud, despite being pushed by Ryan Moore in a more evenly-matched affair.

Both juvenile winners are likely to be seen at Newmarket next. Appleby mentioned the October 12 Dewhurst (G1) as a logical target for Pinatubo, and O’Brien expressed an intent to step Love up in trip for the October 11 Fillies’ Mile (G1).

Judging by O’Brien’s postrace comments, the still-developing Love might call it a season after that, with a view toward next spring’s classics, rather than Santa Anita. Indeed, the blaze-faced Galileo filly stalked on the outside and stayed on in the manner of one wanting further.

British shipper Daahyeh, the Moyglare favorite, followed Love’s move but could get no closer than three-quarters of a length. Although she didn’t win the Breeders’ Cup ticket, trainer Roger Varian reportedly said that the Juvenile Fillies Turf remains possible for Daahyeh.

O’Brien’s So Wonderful, who didn’t have the clearest sailing in the pack, was a sneaky third. The underachiever of the race was Jessica Harrington’s Albigna, under pressure from a tracking position early and only sixth.

Love was rebounding from a fifth in the Debutante (G2) on yielding ground. She had been impressive two back in the Silver Flash (G3) over a quicker surface at Leopardstown.

Of the two Ballydoyle winners, Flying Five heroine Fairyland may have a better chance of using her Breeders’ Cup perk in the Turf Sprint. The Kodiac filly will be retired at the end of the season, making one last venture more appealing. First comes the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) on Arc Day, however, and a projected rematch with So Perfect.

Showing good tactical speed on the far side to chase the pace, Fairyland was always going more easily than So Perfect, who was already being driven along. The farther they went, the stronger So Perfect became. After Fairyland took charge with Moore, So Perfect cut her margin to a short head as she reached the wire in :57.88.

The sophomore fillies had the finish to themselves, with Invincible Army faring best of the older males in third. Next came three-year-old colt Soldier’s Call, while favored Soffia reportedly burst a blood vessel in her flat fifth. Mabs Cross also ran below form in sixth, and Australia’s Houtzen never factored in 10th.

Like Love, Fairyland didn’t do herself justice on soft going last time, winding up sixth in the Haydock Sprint Cup (G1). Until Sunday, she hadn’t built upon her fine juvenile campaign featuring victories in the Cheveley Park (G1) and Lowther (G2). A mile was beyond her scope in both the 1000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket and the Irish version.

Shortening up to five furlongs in the King’s Stand (G1) at Royal Ascot, Fairyland was a creditable fifth to top older sprinter Blue Point, and she placed third to stablemate Ten Sovereigns in the six-furlong July Cup (G1). Her flop behind Battaash in the Nunthorpe (G1) was partly explicable by hitting her head in the gate, so the Flying Five represented her first real chance at a five-furlong prize since Royal Ascot.

Irish training legend Dermot Weld also celebrated a double at the Curragh Sunday, fittingly on a day honoring his former stable jockey Pat Smullen’s fight against cancer.

Jockey Chris Hayes spoke with Smullen before guiding Search for a Song in the Irish St Leger (G1), and that reportedly proved insightful as she upstaged O’Brien’s Kew Gardens and Southern France, and Godolphin’s favorite Cross Counter. Allowed to stride forward when she wasn’t happy held up, Search for a Song kept on rolling to become the first three-year-old filly to capture the historic 1 3/4-mile test in 30 years.

Search for a Song has been relentlessly progressive in her five outings. Unraced at two, she dominated a Fairyhouse maiden, placed second in the Naas Oaks Trial, finished fourth in the Irish Oaks (G1), and earned her first stakes win in the Galtres at York in her latest. Moyglare Stud’s homebred by Galileo, a half-sister to Free Eagle, Sapphire, and Custom Cut and a full sister to Falcon Eight, is fueling high expectations for 2020.

Tarnawa, however, could be seen again this year following her Blandford (G2) victory for Weld and Hayes. Getting the jump on O’Brien’s favored Goddess, the Aga Khan’s homebred held sway by 1 1/2 lengths.

By Pinatubo’s sire Shamardal, the admirably consistent Tarnawa has been unplaced only once, in the Oaks (G1) at Epsom. She bounced back last time in the Give Thanks (G3) at Cork, and now mulls a return to 1 1/2 miles for the October 19 British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1) at Ascot.