It might not have been a vintage St Leger in terms of strength in depth, but Hurricane Lane (126p from 123p) posted a high-class performance to beat Mojo Star (122 from 118), never looking in any danger once he was sent to the front under two furlongs out. While Mojo Star’s main achievement since finishing runner-up in the Derby had been shedding his maiden tag, Hurricane Lane, who finished third at Epsom, had progressed to win the Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris, and there’s every chance he’ll prove top-class when the occasion demands it, perhaps as early as in the Arc where he would be a strong second string to Charlie Appleby-trained stablemate Adayar. Mojo Star, a clear second, looks well up to winning a pattern race and the Long Distance Cup looks a tempting entry for him, while Great Voltigeur runner-up The Mediterranean (118 from 115) was another to improve over the longer trip in third, making him the only Ballydoyle colt to be placed in a British classic this year.
There were two other staying performances of note at the St Leger meeting. Free Wind (116p from 108p) is unlucky not to be unbeaten this season and she took her form to another level with a seven-length success in the Park Hill Stakes while stable-companion Stradivarius (123 from 127) won the Doncaster Cup for a second time, landing the odds much more easily than at York last month, though this still wasn’t evidence that he’s as good as he was and his revised rating now reflects the level of his form this season.
The highlight of Irish Champions Weekend was a fascinating Irish Champion Stakes which proved a dramatic contest despite a field of just four and no overseas interest for the first time since 2009. Less than a length covered the three principals at the line, though they were spread across the track after St Mark’s Basilica (remains 132p) carried runner-up Tarnawa (remains 125) right for much of the straight. The placings were unaltered at the stewards’ inquiry, leaving St Mark’s Basilica to register a fifth consecutive Group 1 success. While plans for him are fluid and reportedly depend on avoiding very soft ground, runner-up Tarnawa ran an excellent trial for the Arc in taking second on the line and she will be at least as effective back at a mile and a half. Beaten a nose for second, the supremely tough Poetic Flare ran right up to his best (127) on his first try at a mile and a quarter but seems sure to give another good account back at a mile if taking his chance in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Saturday’s other Group 1 at Leopardstown, the Matron Stakes, proved a messy contest in which several met trouble in running. It remains to be seen, therefore, if winner No Speak Alexander (116 from 106) can confirm her improvement as she got first run on the neck runner-up Pearls Galore (116 from 113) with favourite Mother Earth (remains 116) looking unlucky behind them in third after being tightened up on the rail.
Search For A Song (118 from 119) was bidding for a hat-trick of wins in Sunday’s Irish St Leger but she could finish only sixth in what was one of the stronger recent renewals and it was the Ebor winner Sonnyboyliston (122 from 121) who came out on top in grand style, finding plenty to overhaul last year’s Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment who ran up to his best (120) in rallying to go down by three quarters of a length. The winner is under consideration for Australia himself and he looks to have all that is required to go well at Flemington.
There was a strong British challenge for the Flying Five, headed by recent Nunthorpe winner Winter Power but she probably overdid things in front this time and it was last year’s winner Glass Slippers (remains 118+) who fared best of the visitors again, though she had to settle for a close third this time as outsiders Romantic Proposal (116 from 108) and A Case of You (116 from 109) took the first two places. A listed winner over six furlongs at the track in the summer, Romantic Proposal landed much her biggest prize, helped by the strong pace over the shorter trip, and was well in control at the line despite having only half a length to spare. She’s just the latest good sprinter for her trainer Eddie Lynam who is reportedly aiming her at the Abbaye.
The most impressive performance at the Curragh came from Native Trail who was much improved (122p from 105p) to win the National Stakes at the chief expense of the odds-on favourite Point Lonsdale (remains 114p) who was also defending an unbeaten record. A third winner of the National Stakes in four years for Godolphin, Charlie Appleby and William Buick after Quorto and Pinatubo, Native Trail is improving in leaps and bounds though still showed signs of inexperience before forging clear to win by three and a half lengths. He looks a high-class prospect, sure to take all the beating in the Dewhurst Stakes next. Point Lonsdale had no answer to the winner’s turn of foot and the son of Australia is crying out for the step up to a mile now, still open to improvement with that in mind.
Very taking performance in the @Goffs1866 Vincent O'Brien National Stakes!! 🚀— The Curragh Racecourse (@curraghrace) September 12, 2021
Native Trail powers away from this classy field in the final 100 yards to win emphatically for Charlie Appleby and William Buick 🏇 #LICW21 pic.twitter.com/lV5nPu1gIe
The fillies’ equivalent of the National Stakes, the Moyglare Stud Stakes, wasn’t a particularly deep renewal but the key piece of form was last month’s Debutante Stakes over the same course and distance but run on softer ground. Discoveries (107p from 91p) was only third there, but she showed plenty of improvement to beat the Debutante winner Agartha (remains 106) by three quarters of a length under a more aggressive ride this time. A sister to Alpha Centauri and a half-sister to Alpine Star, both high-class fillies and Group 1 winners at a mile for Jessica Harrington, Discoveries is sure to improve further, with a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf under consideration.
The Arc Trials lost two of their most important participants due to setbacks, a minor one in the case of Adayar, with a leg infection keeping him out of the Prix Niel, but a more serious injury ended the career of Wonderful Tonight who had been declared for the Prix Foy. The Niel was a substandard race in Adayar’s absence, while there was an upset in the Prix Vermeille in which Snowfall (remains 124) was beaten for the first time this year, victory going instead to the recent Windsor listed winner Teona (116p from 115p) who had been beaten out of sight behind Snowfall in the Oaks when they last met. Teona is only now beginning to realise the considerable promise she showed at two but would have to take a big step forward again to have a say in the Arc, while Snowfall’s own Arc claims, which had been looking so good after her latest victory in the Yorkshire Oaks, took a knock here.
Much the best performance from the three trials came from Japanese colt Deep Bond (126 from 123) who made all in the Prix Foy. Despite having shown form verging on high class at home, he was widely regarded as Japan’s number two Arc contender behind the mare Chrono Genesis (rated 125) who goes straight for the race without a prep run. Deep Bond has been campaigned principally as a stayer in Japan and he was ridden to make use of his stamina in the Foy but held on to beat the reliable Ballydoyle yardstick Broome who ran to his best (123) a length and a half back in second. It will be harder to pull off the same tactics in an Arc, but Deep Bond is entitled to run well if stamina is at a premium. His sire Kizuna was fourth in Treve’s first Arc after he too won his Longchamp trial, the Prix Niel.