Empress Josephine edges out Joan Of Arc in titanic finish for O’Brien one-two
Empress Josephine edged out stablemate Joan Of Arc in the final stride to give Aidan O’Brien his tenth success in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Having seen off No Speak Alexander, Joan Of Arc and Ryan Moore looked sure to collect but Seamie Heffernan delivered Empress Josephine with precision timing to score in a photo-finish.
The winner returned at 14-1 following late support and scored by a short-head from her better-fancied stablemate at 9-2. No Speak Alexander, who contributed plenty to a Classic thriller, clung on for third at 13-2. Pretty Gorgeous was the unplaced 15-8 favourite.
Unraced last season, Empress Josephine made a winning debut at Naas in March but had failed to score in two subsequent runs at Group 3 and Listed level. However, she was backed in from 20-1 late on and came home strongest to give Heffernan his fifth win in the race.
Drawn in stall 13, the winner was settled towards the rear on the outside of the pack in what appeared to be a race run at no more than a sensible gallop in testing conditions.
As a result, No Speak Alexander and Joan Of Arc looked well placed as they quickened from the front in the final quarter mile, at which stage Empress Josephine still had plenty of ground to make up.
She gradually found her top gear in the final furlong and hit the line best for a memorable win.
“She’s a bit of class,” said Heffernan. “It’s my fifth Guineas and it’s a pleasure to be on the team and riding good horses. At the moment she probably won’t get a mile and a half but in a couple of months’ time, when she’s more mature and stronger, she could stay.”
Royal Ascot could be next for the winner, with O’Brien suggesting the Coronation Stakes as a target.
Celebrating his tenth win in the race, the trainer said: “I’m delighted with them. We thought this filly [Empress Josephine] was very good after her maiden and we thought coming back to a mile and taking our time with her might suit.
“She’s a seriously bred filly – she’s a sister to Minding and unbelievable really. We’ll see what the lads want to do but we could have a look at a Coronation with her.
“Ryan’s filly [Joan Of Arc] ran a stormer as well. She might go to the French Oaks next time.”
Noel Meade on cloud nine after Helvic Dream delivers first Flat Group 1 triumph
“I can die a happy man” was the response from a hoarse Noel Meade after Helvic Dream prevailed in a gripping Tattersalls Gold Cup battle with Broome, providing the leading trainer with a cherished first Group 1 win on the Flat.
The eight-time champion jumps trainer produced the improving four-year-old to perfection for a fourth clash of the season with Broome, who held a 3-0 advantage coming into the €300,000 contest, and Colin Keane held up his end of the bargain with a barnstorming ride, called the winner by a shorthead after a head-bobbing photo.
The 8-1 chance, who ran out a ready winner of last season’s Group 3 International Stakes, has come a long way since recording back-to-back wins in auction races at Roscommon as a two-year-old, delivering a career best in his biggest test.
“I just can’t believe it to be honest with you,” said an ecstatic Meade.
“I’m thrilled. I’ve been second in the Guineas twice and placed in Classics and Group 1s, fourth in the Epsom Derby, but that’s the first Group 1 winner. It means a lot.”
He added: “There have been plenty of people trying to buy him, but thanks to the lads – they kept faith in me. I said to them at the end of last year that maybe we could have a chance of going abroad, there’s plenty of places we could go with him.
“Tom Hendron [joint-owner] sent me up a list of the four races he’s run in this season. We said we’d go there and hope the ground would come right for us. You’d never think you were going to get soft ground on a day like today.”
The old adage that you never lose, rather you either win or learn, rung true for Keane, whose previous experience of chasing home the 10-11 favourite provided him with the tools to upset the 2019 Derby fourth.
“I thought I’d try to have a crack at him late as the second horse can be very idle and he was coming back at us towards the line,” said the two-time champion jockey.
“Noel is a real good supporter of mine and I’m glad to pay him back with this.”
For a brief moment it looked as though Hollie Doyle was about to cause an upset on the Willie Mullins-trained True Self, trading as low as 2.22 in-running, but the pair finished an admirable third.
Assistant trainer David Casey said: “She’s a brilliant mare and ran a cracker on ground we didn’t think she’d thoroughly enjoy. Hollie seems to get a brilliant tune out of her, seems to have improved her, so hopefully we can keep the partnership intact. Well done to Noel Meade.” (fonte : RacingPost)