Brave Anna proves best in Albany Stakes
Edited Press Release
Aidan O'Brien scored his 52nd Royal Ascot winner when Brave Anna took the first race on Friday, the Albany Stakes (Eng-G3), going six furlongs with Seamus Heffernan aboard.
The War Front filly is owned and bred by Coolmore Stud supremo John Magnier's mother, Evie Stockwell.
"We were nearly leaving her at home, because I thought she might need seven furlongs, rather than six,” O'Brien admitted. “Mrs. Stockwell said to let her take her chance, so that's why she's here.
"I was hoping the winner would run well and that Mrs. Stockwell would be happy."
"This will mean so much to her (Mrs. Stockwell),” said M.V. Magnier, grandson of the winning owner/breeder. “She bred Brave Anna and really wanted to come today but thankfully she is looking after my uncle Peter.
"Brave Anna is very tough and, in fairness to Seamus, he said beforehand that he fancied her because she would like the ground. She won well and it is great for Seamus because he works very hard."
Brave Anna was away slowly under Heffernan to begin with but the pair were soon traveling nicely and came with a challenge just over a furlong out. The runner-up, Bletchley, loomed up alongside the winner in the dying strides but Heffernan just had enough up his sleeve to deny that filly by a narrow margin.
"She's a brave filly, and Seamus gave her a lovely ride,” O’Brien said. “She's here because the ground is soft – I thought she needed seven furlongs, so I thought she might get it here on soft. But she's a War Front so she shouldn't be a soft ground lover.
“It was the same at the Curragh – she ran as second string there and came and nabbed a fancied runner. She was green first time out (when unplaced at Naas in her debut) and came on from that. I think she will want a mile in time."
Heffernan, who also piloted Brave Anna when she won her maiden at the Curragh last month, celebrated his third Royal Ascot success.
"The plan was to give her a chance by tracking them early on and then stay on late and that's what she did," he explained. "She's stepped up in class and taken on the best six-furlong fillies around. We weren't sure of a lot of things. She was the best horse today. She has been prepared very well and I had to ride her with confidence.
"Brave Anna is a lovely filly and came here on the back of a good win at the Curragh.
"It is nice to ride a winner for this lady (Mrs. Evie Stockwell) – she’s an important lady in the team,” Heffernan added. “Mrs. Stockwell paid me a huge compliment the last day I won on Brave Anna so it's nice to pitch up on the big day and win again.”
Brave Anna was the less-fancied of O'Brien's pair in the race and won at odds of 16-1, beating Bletchley by a short head. The O'Brien-trained Cuff was favorite at 2-1 and finished fifth.
"We were happy with Cuff – she was drawn out a little bit, and the ground was a bit different for her today than it was when she won at Naas, a bit slower,” O’Brien said.
The Ralph Beckett-trained Bletchley stayed on well on the far side to pose a real threat inside the final furlong after being held up in midpack by jockey by Oisin Murphy after a slow start from the stalls. The daughter of Makfi was closing all the way to the line but just failed in her bid to catch Brave Anna.
"She was slow from the gate and that is probably what got her beat but that is life. She's run a cracker,” Beckett said.
Richard Fahey, trainer of third-placed Queen Kindly, was pleased with the daughter of Frankel who stayed on well inside the final two furlongs.
"(Jockey) Jamie (Spencer) just felt the ground was a bit sticky and she didn't travel as well as he would have liked early on,” Fahey remarked. "I thought she stayed well today but she is a speedy filly. Better ground on an easy six furlongs is something we will look for.
"It's not a bad run but when you come here and expect to win, you are disappointed. It's a good run but you don't come here to run well, you come here to win. On better ground, you'll see a better filly as she is quite quick.
“I'll get her home before making any decisions. She was ready to come to Ascot today and she was entitled to be here. She will have better days in her now, it was only her second race and we are pleased.”
Brave Anna photo courtesy Ascot Racecourse via Twitter