For once yesterday, the spotlight was off Aidan O'Brien, who had taken a record-equalling 27th Irish Classic on Saturday, and on to a young man winning his first of any stripe. Step forward last year's apprentice champion Martin Harley, victorious on the 12-1 chance Samitar in the 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh in a finish dominated by outsiders.
But though the filly's comfortable length-and-a-half defeat of the 33-1 shot Ishvana may have been surprising to onlookers, it was less so to those closest to her. As a juvenile, the daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar had failed by only a head to take a Group One prize and there were perfectly valid excuses for her two dullish previous efforts this term. And soon into the race, Harley knew it was her, and his, day.
"She came here on song today and was always travelling for me," he said. "Two furlongs down, I was never going to get beat and when I asked her she just picked up and ran. It was an amazing feeling."
The winning trainer, Mick Channon, typically, put it more succinctly: "At half way I turned and said 'she pisses it'. I knew if the real Samitar turned up she'd be right there, and she did and she was."
The runaway Newmarket Guineas heroine Homecoming Queen was 11-8 favourite yesterday to follow up her nine-length romp in the Rowley Mile mud three weeks earlier and take O'Brien past his namesake Vincent's Irish Classic total. She led until Samitar, relishing the fast ground, cruised past but dropped back to fourth.
It was left to Ishvana, the longest-priced of the O'Brien trio of runners, to try to salvage honour for her stable, but she was always second-best. Another long shot, Princess Sinead at 25-1, plugged on for third.
Samitar, the only British challenger in yesterday's field, gave Berkshire-based Channon his 17th top-level success, 10 of which have come with fillies. Perhaps surprisingly, it was a first Classic for him, too, though not at his first attempt. Again typically, he blamed himself for his charge's earlier defeats. "First time out I dropped her back to six furlongs for one of those valuable sales races," he said, "trying to be far too clever. Then in France it was all a bit of a mess; she should have been held up, not made the running."
Yesterday was the first time Harley had ridden Samitar, owned by US-based Martin Schwartz, in public. "Dead chuffed for the lad," added Channon. "He works hard and he had the confidence to grab his chance and get it spot on today."
Like Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Power, Samitar is bound for Royal Ascot, he for the St James's Palace Stakes and she for the filly equivalent, the Coronation Stakes.
There was Group One consolation at the Curragh for O'Brien and jockey son Joseph with So You Think, who never had to come out of his comfort zone to take the Tattersalls Gold Cup by six lengths. The six-year-old, too, will be at next month's Royal meeting, with the Prince of Wales's Stakes his target.
At Longchamp, Cirrus Des Aigles, 4-7 for the Group One Prix d'Ispahan, was put in his place fair and square by the filly Golden Lilac, winner of last year's French Guineas and Oaks.
Chris McGrath's Nap: Cape Classic (7.10 Windsor)
Not ideally drawn, but is progressive – his half-brother King's Apostle developed into a high-class sprinter with age – and finished best of all on his comeback at Doncaster nine days ago.
Next best: Touch Gold (3.30 Leicester)
Makes his handicap debut; his homework indicates he has progressed since satisfactory seasonal debut on soft enough ground.
One to watch: Mac's Power (James Fanshawe) could finish only third after being hampered in his warm-up at Newmarket but, with his handicap mark in mind, that may prove a blessing come Wokingham day at Royal Ascot.
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