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Sonnyboyliston lands another knockout blow to win Irish St Leger

Johnny Murtagh’s Ebor winner follows up in Irish St Leger.

Image: PA

Updated Sep 12th 2021, 5:13 PM

EBOR HERO SONNYBOYLISTON claimed Classic glory in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger.

Just over three weeks on from his lucrative handicap success at York, Johnny Murtagh’s charge stepped up to Group One level for the first time under Ben Coen.

With Amhran Na Bhfiann and Colin Keane setting a searching gallop from flag-fall, very few threatened to land a telling blow.

The leader weakened early in the home straight, which left Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment in front before Sonnyboyliston (4-1) arrived on the scene travelling strongly.

Twilight Payment did not give in without a fight, but Coen’s mount kept finding for pressure and was three-quarters of a length to the good passing the post.

Coen said: “I couldn’t have asked it to go any better. We jumped and he got a lovely tow into the race. They turned it into a real staying race and this lad keeps improving and keeps finding a way to win.

“Every day we step him up, he keeps on finding and it’s a day I’ll never forget.

“This is my first proper year as number one jockey to Johnny and we’ve had a few good spins in England, but I really wanted to get this Group One winner.

“For it to be a Classic and for Johnny is unbelievable.”

EARLIER, DISCOVERIES PROVIDED JESSICA Harrington and Shane Foley with yet another Irish Champions Weekend success in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

Harrington and Foley teamed up for a treble at Leopardstown on Saturday, highlighted by the Group One victory of No Speak Alexander in the Matron Stakes.

Discoveries was sent off at 17-2 to emulate her, having finished third behind the reopposing Agartha in the Debutante Stakes over the course and distance just three weeks ago.

Agartha looked likely to follow up after seeing off a number of challengers, but she was unable to resist the late surge of Discoveries, with three-quarters of a length separating them at the line.

Harrington said: “To win two Group Ones this weekend is just something else.

“She’s a lovely filly. She’s completely different to her full-sister Alpha Centauri, who was a big grey.

“This filly has done a lot of growing and has a lovely temperament – she’s not as feisty as Alpha.

“Her half-sister Alpine Star was different again. How can I be so lucky to have three fillies out of the same mare that have all won Group Ones?

“This filly was green first time she ran and then she won her maiden. We hoped she’d win the Alpha Centauri Debutante, but the ground came up soft that day and she goes on top of the ground.”

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Foley said: “I don’t want this weekend to end, it’s been phenomenal.

“I thought I’d get close to Declan (McDonogh, on Agartha) today as I was riding her a bit different on a bit of better ground. The plan was to sit closer to them and she was well drawn in stall eight as she likes a bit of room.

“She is a very, very good filly, there was no hiding place today and I knew she had stepped forward from the Debutante.

“She was quite green still and had never gone that fast in her life.”

Meanwhile, Native Trail rocketed to 2000 Guineas favouritism as he maintained his unbeaten record with a brilliant victory in the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes, giving trainer Charlie Appleby a third win in the Curragh showpiece.

Previously successful in the Group One contest with Quorto (2019) and the brilliant Pinatubo (2020), the Moulton Paddocks handler – on the mark 24 hours earlier with Hurricane Lane in the St Leger at Doncaster – sent another high-class juvenile across the Irish Sea in search of top-level honours.

A son of Oasis Dream, the Superlative Stakes winner faced a far from straightforward task, with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Point Lonsdale the 8-13 favourite to make it five from five, and Hugo Palmer’s Ebro River bidding to follow up success in last month’s Phoenix Stakes.

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