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Dublin: 0°C Friday 16 April 2021

Joy for Aidan O'Brien as Magical makes effortless return with Pretty Polly Stakes triumph

Star mare back with a bang at the Curragh.

Seamus Heffernan onboard Magical as they power to victory.
Seamus Heffernan onboard Magical as they power to victory.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MAGICAL MADE A triumphant return to action as she added another Group One to her record in the Alwasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh.

The five-year-old was last seen when winning the Champion Stakes at Ascot last October, with the mare subsequently due to head to the Breeders’ Cup before being covered by No Nay Never.

In the end, the multiple Group One winner did not travel to Santa Anita after developing a temperature, and connections had a rethink on calling time on her racing career.

That decision paid immediate dividends as Magical topped off another successful weekend for Aidan O’Brien and jockey Seamus Heffernan in the Group One feature.

Riding the brilliant mare for the first time, Heffernan, fresh from winning the Irish Derby on the stable’s Santiago, bounced Magical out into an early advantage and she never saw another rival.

The result was never in doubt at any stage as the 2-5 favourite powered away to a four-and-a-half-length victory.

Magical was landing her fifth top-level success and all the major races over 10 and 12 furlongs will be in the mix, although she is likely to face old rival Enable at some point having never got the better of John Gosden’s charge in four attempts so far.

O’Brien said: “She’s very exciting and always has been, but she’s got stronger this year and that’s why the lads decided to leave her in training. She was to go to No Nay Never.

“We could have gone to Sandown (for next week’s Coral-Eclipse), but this was a lovely race to start her off. We’ll probably let Japan go to Sandown – he’s had a run.

“We’ll look at the King George for her next. We learned last year that she gets 10 (furlongs) really well and gets 12 as well. It makes her very uncomplicated. 

You usually see a big change between three to four, but something really strange happened the way she changed over the winter to this year. It’s very obvious the power she has now.

“She had been working brilliantly, but we knew that she would come on plenty as well. The Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc are all races that are open to her.”

“She’s a queen” Heffernan added, speaking to Daragh O’Conchuir. “She’s been mixing at the top for a while. I rode it like a piece of work and hopefully she’ll improve. She’s top class. She’s a push-button ride in a Group 1. You can’t ask for anymore.

“It’s like riding a car and you’re half-way through the race and you haven’t put your foot on the accelerator. It’s buckets of class. They’re very rare, this type comes along. She’s been competing at the top for a long, long time and still has the will and the attitude and the ability and the flow and the motion of her.

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“This one is as good as I’ve ever ridden. I’m in a privileged position at the moment to be steering them around.”

The old ‘Horses for Courses’ adage was reasserted once more as Speak In Colours made it a fourth triumph over the six-furlong route at the Home of the Classics to add the Group 2 Weatherbys Ireland Greenland Stakes to his record.

The five-year-old son of Excelebration was runner-up last year but did enough to take the spoils this time for thriving apprentice Shane Crosse and trainer Joseph O’Brien, who was registering his sixth victory over the festival and third pattern prize.

shane-crosse-onboard-speak-in-colours-comes-home-to-win Shane Crosse onboard Speak In Colours comes home to win the Greenlands Stakes. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Prominent throughout, Chantal Consuelo Regalado-Gonazalez’s grey colt kicked off the front just outside the furlong marker and established a sufficient advantage to cling on, with Forever In Dreams rallying once more on the rail and Buffer Zone coming late but falling a head and another head short.

The Paddy Power Rockingham Handicap is invariably an exciting contest but it will be hard to better this year’s renewal, where three horses flashed past the finishing post separated by two short heads at the end of a five-furlong blitz.

Urban Beat (Johnny Murtagh/Ben Coen), Jungle Jane (Willie McCreery/Billy Lee) and Strong Johnson (Kieran Cotter/Colin Keane) went at it hammer and tongs from the off and nothing else ever looked like getting to them.

Neither was willing to give an inch but it was Strong Johnson (5/2f) who followed up his win at this track 15 days previously to prevail and land the €44,250 pot for owner-breeder David Mooney.

Aunt Bridy (6/1) was a first two-year-old triumph since racing’s resumption for Jim Bolger, who is renowned for unleashing smart juveniles at this festival, showing a tremendous attitude to claim the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies’ Maiden.

Odds-on favourite Snowfall almost came down when clipping the winner’s heels as Heffernan tried to go through to move into a gap outside the victor, who was on the rail, and it said a lot for the Camacho debutant that she was still able to knuckle down and hold off the fast-finishing Sister Rosetta and Colin Keane by a short head.

The day’s two concluding contests, the Equine MediRecord Handicap and the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Handicap went the way of progressive Njord (10/1) for Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley, and the hugely impressive Dalton Highway (14/1) for Dermot Weld and Andrew Slattery.

- Reporting from PA and Daragh O’Conchuir

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