Ireland dominate the two Classics during Guineas Festival weekend at Newmarket
They came, they saw, they conquered – again. Ireland underlined its stranglehold on Jumps racing with a dominant display at the Cheltenham Festival in March, while the winner of last month’s Grand National had also travelled across the Irish Sea to Aintree.
And they also picked up the top prizes last weekend at the Guineas Festival in Newmarket, perhaps an early warning sign that the Irish will also take some beating on the Flat during the months to come.
Victories for Ireland came as little surprise, although perhaps the identity of those horses in the winners’ enclosure come the conclusion of both the QIPCO 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas did raise a few eyebrows.
Saturday’s showpiece – the 2,000 Guineas – went the way of seasoned campaigner Jim Bolger and Poetic Flare, son of the trainer’s other previous winner of the Newmarket Classic, Dawn Approach.
The last time a 2,000 Guineas victor was sired by a previous winner was in 1992, when the victorious Rodrigo de Triano was a son of 1984 winner El Gran Senor.
Speaking from his Glebe House base in Coolculle after watching 16/1 shot Poetic Flare get the better of Charlie Appleby’s Master Of The Seas via a photo finish, the 79-year-old told the media: “I thought he was beaten. It’s a big day for us, right up there with the best we’ve had.
“It’s a wonderful day. In our case it’s fairly necessary with the way I do things. It very much carries on that Dawn Approach line, and I have two half-sisters of Poetic Flare as well.”
In the saddle was Kevin Manning, the 54-year-old jockey who is the trainer’s son-in-law.
Manning is the oldest jockey to win a Classic since the great Lester Piggott piloted the aforementioned Rodrigo de Triano to victory in the 2,000 Guineas in 1992 aged 56.
He said: “He is very smart. He picked up well and travelled well. He just caught me off guard out of the gates and got me back on a long rein so I just had to sit and suffer.
“Down into the dip when they quickened up I thought it was put to bed then the last five or six strides towards the line I thought he was idling a little bit coming back underneath me.
“I knew it was very tight but I did think I had won. I would have been disappointed if the result would have been called against me but I knew it was very tight. He is very genuine and straightforward.”
Aidan O’Brien had three horses in the race, none of which finished in the top four – the first time that has happened since 2013.
Indeed, since 2015, the Coolmore trainer has been responsible for a shade more than 66 per cent of the winners of the season’s first two Classics.
It was therefore far from a shock to see him saddle the winner in Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas, though few had backed Mother Earth to do the business.
O’Brien’s Santa Barbara – the chosen mount of Ryan Moore – was favourite but could only muster a fourth-placed finish while stable-mate Mother Eater took the lead in the final quarter mile and kept on finding more under Frankie Dettori all the way to the line.
O’Brien, who is the first trainer to win three straight 1,000 Guineas since George Lambton way back in 1918, said: “Mother Earth is a very consistent filly – she had a great run in America last time out last year and that was very professional. She relaxed and quickened and did everything really well, so we’re delighted.
“I think Mother Earth will stick to a mile and we’ll step Santa Barbara up in trip. The latter was always going to go to the Oaks next time and this filly was always going to go to the Irish Guineas next, that was the plan.”
It was also a landmark occasion for HQ-based jockey Dettori. The Italian, who along with Manning has a combined age of 104, was riding his 20th winner in a Classic.
“Aidan gave me a lot of confidence and said to forget about Santa Barbara and just ride my own race. He told me to get cover and I did and like I forgot about the favourite and just kicked at the top of the hill,” he said. “I knew she’d stay really well and I won. It’s my 20th Classic at 50 years old. I’m only 10 behind Lester now so I’ve got plenty of time!
“It’s great to do it at Newmarket. I’m extremely happy and I got lucky to get that ride. Lester was 56 so I’ve got six years left and Kevin won yesterday – come on the oldies!”