Roaring Lion, Laurens among five Breeders' Cup Challenge winners over Irish Champions Weekend

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TwinSpires Staff

September 17th, 2018


Ireland had five major stakes races that were designated Breeders’ Cup Challenge races where the winner is guaranteed a berth in their corresponding race, money towards pre-entry/entry fees and travel stipends. For these horses and their international travel needs, it amounts to around $80 to $100K. Three races were run on Leopardstown’s left-handed course Saturday and two were run Sunday at The Curragh where they ran down a straightaway.

Saturday’s KPMG Champions Juvenile (G2) was run going a one-turn mile and the winner received an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). The betting public believed that MADHMOON’s lone win over the track going this distance four weeks ago was legit and they sent him off as the 6/5 favorite. The Shadwell Stable runner continued the barn’s strong run this summer and if he does ship to America, he should be able to adapt quite nicely around two turns. Plus, they all carried 129 pounds here so a start in America will be a welcome relief.

The best of the rest was Aidan O’Brien’s Broome who fell far behind early and rallied for second to miss by 2 1/2 lengths. Son of Australia should have no trouble stretching out next year. Western Australia was used hard on the pace and weakened to fourth but could be a factor in the new Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

The Matron Stakes (G1) was a mile turf race where the winner will receive an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Alpha Centauri came into the race with four straight Group 1 stakes wins and was sent off as the 3/10 favorite but it all came apart for her. LAURENS gunned to the front and set a decent pace for Dan Tudhope. Winner of two Group 1 stakes in France going about 10 furlongs before running poorly in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1) going 12 furlongs, the turnback agreed with her as she made every step a winning one at 10/1.

Alpha Centauri bravely gave chase. Something went wrong and it was announced that Alpha Centauri suffered an injury and her racing career was over. Her stride was awkward in the final yards and it cost her the rest of her career and a chance at her fifth straight Group 1 win. Magical took the worst of it as she chased Laurens and then Alpha Centauri came over on her as she lugged in costing Magical her momentum. With the exception of her last start, Laurens has done nothing wrong in her career and will be dangerous in any race she shows up in for Karl Burke.

The Irish Champion Stakes (G1) was run at around 1 1/4 miles on the good to firm ground conditions. Even with all the talk about Aidan O’Brien’s stable getting healthier after being plagued by a virus, the public still made ROARING LION the odds-on favorite. He beat archrival Saxon Warrior two starts back by a neck then romped in the Juddmonte International Stakes (G1) at York. John Gosden, who has a barn full of top middle distance runners this year, has gotten this son of Kitten’s Joy to run straighter and the results have been electrifying.

O’Brien’s team tactics worked flawless which resulted in Saxon Warrior opening up a clear lead with a furlong to go. Ryan Moore is as tough a rider as there is to run down and given a head start, it didn’t look good for Roaring Lion but the lion roared when Oisin Murphy asked him and he took aim at Saxon Warrior. He had so much momentum catching up to him that Moore and Saxon Warrior really had no time to respond and Roaring Lion went on to a neck victory.

Gosden indicated after the race that they could come back on the British Champions card in four weeks. His win gives him an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) and we’ll see if you can make all the dances. A lot will be up to his Qatari owners. Saxon Warrior cooled out after the race but the next morning, O’Brien’s staff found that he had torn a tendon and his racing career is over. Alpha Centauri and Saxon Warrior both have their careers ended on the same day.

Sunday’s action was at the Curragh where the ground was listed as good to yielding. HAVANA GREY is a brilliantly fast sprinter that loves to go to the front and play “Catch me if you can.” He did it again in the Flying Five Stakes (G1), where the winner gets an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), when he made all the running to hold on by a half-length over 22/1 longshot Son of Rest who made up a lot of ground. It was the second big win on the weekend for trainer Karl Burke who could be a busy man the first weekend of November at Churchill Downs.

The fifth Irish stakes race with a Breeders’ Cup ticket was the Moyglare Stud Stakes (G1) for juvenile fillies going a straight seven furlongs and the winner receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf G1. The bettors had a hard time settling on a favorite and finally sent off SKITTER SKATTER as the tepid 7/2 chalk. It didn’t look like she should get there as she was stuck in one gear with a quarter mile to go but once Ronan Whelan got her in the clear, she kicked on well to win by two lengths. It was her seventh start of the year but she still looks like she runs in spots and might have some more upside. Aidan O’Brien’s trio could only finish third, fourth and seventh.


Roaring Lion photo courtesy of Leopardstown Racecourse via Twitter