Aidan O’Brien claimed his first Group 1 of this year’s Longines Irish Champions Weekend when Flag Of Honour ran out a cosy winner of the Comer Group International Irish St Leger.
It was a second St Leger in as many days for O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore as Flag Of Honour followed up the victory of Kew Gardens in the English equivalent at Doncaster on Saturday.
O’Brien was winning the Irish St Leger for a fifth time as he accounted for his sons Joseph and Donnacha and the Irish Derby winner Latrobe by a facile two and three quarters of a length.
Returned a 2/1 winning favourite, Flag Of Honour could possibly head to Australia later in the year in a bid to give O’Brien a shot at winning a first Lexus Melbourne Cup.
“He’s a tough, hardy horse who handles an ease in the ground and he stays very well,” revealed the winning trainer.
“He has enough class for a mile and a half but he get’s this extended trip well. He’s progressing all the time and is really going the right way and Ryan felt he quickened well.
“The way he picked up there you wouldn’t say that he’d have to step to extreme trips. He’s after having a busy time so we’ll have to see whether he runs again this year. He has an entry in the Melbourne Cup but I’ll have to talk to the lads and see what they’d like to do.”
Ryan Moore was suitably impressed with his latest major winner for the Ballydoyle and Coolmore axis.
It’s a St Leger double for Ryan Moore and @Ballydoyle as Flag Of Honour turns in an extremely professional display to win the Group 1 Comer Group International Irish St Leger at @curraghrace: pic.twitter.com/k5f5ijhfYJ
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) September 16, 2018
Moore said; “That was a good performance and he is a very likeable horse. He has won three races in a row here and he shows good speed and stays well
Anthony Van Dyck and Quorto both entered the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes with big reputations and it was that pair that duly fought out the finish with Quorto coming out on top.
The Group 1 juvenile contest threw up yet another thrilling finish on this Irish Champions Weekend but it was the Charlie Appleby-trained son of Dubawi who always looked to be holding Anthony Van Dyck.
In maintaining his unbeaten record and landing one of the most prestigious two-year-old races on the calendar Quorto earned a quote of 8/1 from 14/1 with Betfair for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket next season.
A stewards inquiry was called with the front two getting close in the closing stages but the result went unaltered and Appleby was able top plot a path to Newmarket next season.
Appleby said; “He’s come here with a lovely profile having won his maiden over six and then stepped up to win the Superlative Stakes over seven furlongs last time. He needed all the time he had between the Superlative and this race as he went a bit quiet in himself but in the last ten days or so he has come back to where he was before the Superlative and we came here confident.
“He’s put himself there as a candidate for the 2000 Guineas and at this stage if you pinned me down I’d say he’s a miler who could stretch out to ten furlongs. He’s very much his father in many respects and he’s the first Group 1-winning two-year-old colt by Dubawi so if we now put him away for the winter so be it.
“Obviously if he does run again this year it will be in the Dewhurst Stakes but we’ll see how he comes out of this and I’ll speak to his Highness Sheikh Mohammed and then we will make a decision on whether he runs again this year. He’s probably learnt a lot more today than he did in his first two races and mentally he’ll come on a good deal from today.”
Skitter Scatter continued her progress to the highest level by winning the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday, providing trainer Patrick Prendergast and jockey Ronan Whelan with a maiden Group 1 victory.
The filly earned a starting spot in the field for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs with her victory.
A high class field of fillies assembled to contest the Moyglare Stud Stakes and for a while it looked as though it might be a first Group 1 for trainer Sheila Lavery and jockey Robbie Colgan as Lady Kaya travelled well, but Skitter Scatter was doing her best work at the finish and was going away at the line to record a two length win.
Sunday’s win was a third in a row for Skitter Scatter and she certainly proved to be the most popular winner of the weekend with Prendergast now dreaming of Guineas glory next year.
“I’m quite astounded with good she is. I was thinking that maybe we would come here run well and have a chance of running well in the Guineas next year. Now I’m thinking that maybe she could win the Guineas,” said a thrilled winning trainer.
“Coming into the race my worry was that it had been a long year for her but she’s just kept going and improving and she’s started to grow lately so she won’t be so small anymore.
“The beauty of a small yard like ours is that everyone is so closely involved with every horse and it may sound like a cliché but I’m just a cog in the wheel.
“My brief was to win a maiden with her. She is one of the best bred fillies ever to come into my yard and ordinarily she would have been sold well before know but Anthony and Mrs Rogers were adamant that they were going to race her and I’m very grateful to them.
“The Breeders Cup would be an exciting thing to do but we need to be careful with the filly and I would really hate to go to the well once too often with her this year.”
Prendergast has formed a strong alliance with jockey Ronan Whelan and Whelan too was basking in the biggest day of his career.
Whelan said; “She is the filly that just keeps giving. We went a right good gallop and coming to the two furlong pole I just wanted to follow the fancied runners but I don’t know what happened.
“She seemed to just hit a flat spot and lost a little momentum and I thought they got away from me but she just kept finding and was even running around a bit at the finish. Trip, ground, nothing seems to be a problem to her.
“The biggest thing about this for me is to be able to repay Patrick and all his staff for having the faith in me to ride all their horses. It’s just an incredible feeling.”