BC Internationals: Juvenile Fillies Turf contender Intricately
No matter how Intricately fares in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), she’s already provided one of the most compelling angles of the Breeders’ Cup: an O'Brien family saga.
Bred by Aidan and Annemarie O’Brien, Intricately is trained by their son Joseph (the former jockey) and ridden by another son, Donnacha. She earned her way here by upsetting the Aidan O’Brien-trained Hydrangea in the Moyglare Stud (G1), and if Intricately can repeat the feat at Santa Anita, the O’Brien lads would make Breeders’ Cup history.
Joseph O’Brien currently holds the record as the youngest jockey to ride a Breeders’ Cup winner. He was 18 years old when guiding his father’s St Nicholas Abbey in the 2011 Turf (G1). Now he can become the youngest trainer to saddle a Breeders’ Cup winner, eclipsing Craig Dollase, who was 27 when Reraise took the 1998 Sprint (G1). Joseph would also emulate the great jockey-turned-trainer Freddie Head, the rider of the dazzling Mile (G1) winner Miesque (1987-88) who trained Mile three-peater Goldikova (2008-10).
Donnacha O’Brien would supplant Joseph as the youngest Breeders’ Cup-winning jockey. Although he’s currently 18, his birthday is a couple of months after Joseph’s, so he’d establish a new record.
Intricately has more going for her than sentimental rooting interests. Initially sporting the silks of Annemarie O’Brien, she started her career by springing a 33-1 upset of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Sir Edwin Landseer at Gowran, a race that has produced a few winners.
Next tackling the Silver Flash (G3) at Leopardstown, Intricately was a solid third to Aidan O’Brien’s touted Promise to Be True. Her effort can be upgraded since she covered the most ground, and lost by a little more than a length.
Intricately was then purchased by Mrs. C.C. Regalado-Gonzalez, perhaps best known for buying Qualify the winter prior to her 50-1 stunner in the 2015 Oaks (G1). Interestingly, both Qualify and Intricately are daughters of Fastnet Rock.
In her debut for her new owner, Intricately was third to the Aidan O’Brien duo of Rhododendron and Hydrangea (a Juvenile Fillies Turf [G1] rival) in the Debutante (G2) at the Curragh. She loomed briefly, couldn’t go on with the top two, but kept on persistently.
There was no reason to suppose that Intricately would outstrip them in their rematch over the same track and trip, and even a similar course condition, in the Moyglare. Ignored as the 25-1 longest shot on the board, she prompted the pace set by Hydrangea and threw down an unexpectedly dangerous challenge. The two reached the wire together, and Intricately won the decision by a head-bob on a day characterized by upsets.
As much credit as Intricately deserves for giving Joseph O’Brien his first Group 1 winner as a trainer, and rider Donnacha his first Group 1, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Moyglare was a perfect storm for her. Third-placer Rhododendron, who was flailing away uncharacteristically, had her task complicated by the track’s playing friendlier to on-the-pace types that day. Rhododendron turned the page next time with an emphatic victory over Hydrangea in the Fillies’ Mile (G1) at Newmarket. We simply didn’t see the real Rhododendron in the Moyglare.
Aside from exacting revenge on Rhododendron and Hydrangea, Intricately was also turning the tables on another Aidan O’Brien runner, her Silver Flash conqueror Promise to Be True. The odds-on favorite in the Moyglare, Promise to Be True never got going in fifth. She’s since placed in a pair of French Group 1s – the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) and Sunday’s Criterium International (G1) against the boys. (Hence Promise to Be True likely won’t follow through on her Juvenile Fillies Turf pre-entry).
My hunch is that Intricately handled the tough conditions at the Curragh better on the day. A fast, turning mile at Santa Anita is a very different ball game that will play to her rivals’ strengths.
Yet I could be underestimating Intricately. Fastnet Rocks do improve with time, and she’s a genuine, consistent type who’s never been worse than third. Her pedigree has a further Aidan O’Brien connection. She’s out of a Galileo half-sister to world-class miler Rock of Gibraltar, who had his own Breeders’ Cup agony in the 2002 Mile at Arlington.
Wouldn’t it be poignant if the O’Brien sons break through at the Breeders’ Cup with a relative of Rock of Gibraltar?
Photo courtesy of Irish Champions Weekend