BC Internationals: Juvenile Fillies Turf contender Hydrangea
Although Hydrangea is having a case of seconditis, the Aidan O’Brien filly has been competing in top company. She will have her day sooner or later, and her tactical ability should stand her in good stead at Santa Anita.
By Galileo and out of Group 2-winning sprinter Beauty Is Truth, Hydrangea is a full sister to current Australian Group 1 winner The United States. She’s also a half-sister to multiple Group 3 winner Fire Lily, the Irish highweight three-year-old sprinter of 2012.
Hydrangea made a low-key debut over six furlongs at the Curragh, improving her position late to snatch 10th in a 21-filly field. She was expected to move forward next time in a seven-furlong maiden at Galway, and she did, only to run into trouble – and a smart Dermot Weld prospect in Eziyra. Stuck on the inside, Hydrangea had to switch out just as Eziyra was already striking the front. She couldn’t overcome conceding first run, but finished strongly for second. Hydrangea might have made a real race of it with a better trip.
That result is significant because Weld is famous for showcasing his promising juveniles at Galway. Eziyra has continued the trend by performing well in her ensuing stakes attempts. The Aga Khan homebred just missed in the Flame of Tara (G3) and most recently won the C.F. and M.L. Weld Park (G3), fittingly in honor of her trainer’s parents.
Hydrangea came right back to justify odds-on favoritism at the Curragh. Sent straight to front, she shrugged off challenges and kicked clear in the seventh and final furlong. This marked her first opportunity on good-to-firm turf, and on this evidence, it’s her preference.
Earning her way into a higher grade for the Debutante (G2) over the same course and distance, Hydrangea once again led early. She looked vulnerable in midstretch, and although unable to pull away on the yielding-to-soft ground, she kept on finding. But her favored stablemate Rhododendron proved too strong and forced her head in front, despite Hydrangea’s best attempts to come again.
Hydrangea suffered an even tougher beat in the Moyglare Stud (G1), back on the same yielding ground at the Curragh. She dug in valiantly while pressed by Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) rival Intricately, and the duo dueled to the wire. The 25-1 Intricately prevailed on the head-bob to snare the “Win and You’re In.”
The Moyglare turned the Debutante form upside down. Intricately had been third in the prep, and Debutante winner Rhododendron was only a one-paced third in the Moyglare on a day that was difficult for closers.
Rhododendron and Hydrangea took their rivalry to Newmarket for the Fillies’ Mile (G1). The quicker surface gave a clear-cut verdict in favor of Rhododendron. Hydrangea, racing prominently on the stands’ side, couldn’t live with her stablemate’s powerful charge. But Hydrangea was miles ahead of the rest, underscoring just how special Rhododendron might turn out to be.
Hydrangea will enjoy getting away from Rhododendron, as much as meeting the firm surface, at Santa Anita. The only question is whether the mile will be a bit sharp for her here, considering how strongly she stays over the stiffer courses at the Curragh and Newmarket. Nevertheless, this is a quality filly with an admirable attitude who tries her heart out.
Photo of Hydrangea (left) and Intricately courtesy of Irish Champions Weekend