Laurens Upsets Huge Favorite Alpha Centauri in Matron Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 16th, 2018

It’s a fact that when a heavy favorite is upset in a major sporting competition, more attention is typically focused on the performance of the loser than the winner, and this is especially so when extenuating circumstances surround the defeat of the favorite. As an unfortunate side effect, the victorious effort of the underdog is frequently overlooked, which has been precisely the case in the aftermath of Saturday’s one-mile Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes (Ire-I) at Leopardstown in Ireland.

From start to finish, the focus was on the overwhelming favorite , who entered the Matron off four dominating victories against Group 1 company. The remarkable daughter of Mastercraftsman appeared to boast an insurmountable advantage over her six rivals in the Matron, and after settling in mid-pack early on, she began to advance around the turn and seemed poised to strike as the field entered the homestretch.

But the front-running Laurens, herself a three-time Group 1 winner, was still going strong on the front end, refusing to give way without a fight. Alpha Centauri—under a surprising amount of urging from jockey Colm O’Donoghue—gradually narrowed the gap and almost reached even terms with the leader late in the race. But then she bobbled, tossed her head, changed leads, and lost her momentum, dropping back to cross the wire three-quarters of a length behind Laurens.

Suffice to say, it was a shocking defeat, and it was also clear that Alpha Centauri had run well below form. Shortly after the race, she was reported to be “clinically abnormal,” a statement published in the RacingPost.com results of the Matron Stakes, and the following day it was revealed that she had suffered a bone chip in her right front fetlock and will not be racing again.

But let’s not let the understandable disappointment surrounding Alpha Centauri’s injury and retirement detract from the gutsy performance turned in by Laurens. Trained by Karl Burke and ridden to victory by Daniel Tudhope, Laurens had already demonstrated her unquestionable talent by winning the Fillies Mile (Eng-I), Prix Saint-Alary (Fr-I), and Prix de Diane (Fr-I) during the last year, but she was also cutting back substantially in distance after failing to stay 1 ½ miles in the Yorkshire Oaks (Eng-I), where she finished out of the top two for the first time while coming home in sixth place.

However, the change in distance proved to be no obstacle for Laurens, who boldly went to the front at the start and was never headed from there, gamely turning back Alpha Centauri to prevail with a career-best 116 Racing Post Rating. With four Group 1 wins under her belt, Laurens is steadily staking her claim as one of the best three-year-old fillies in Europe, and by virtue of her victory in the Matron, she’s secured a “Win and You’re In” berth to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. Only time will tell if she comes for the race—the 1 3/8-mile distance might be a bit beyond her best—but if she does come, she would add a lot of class and international intrigue to the field.