Highfield Princess and Tahiyra delivered stunning Sunday rides on Longines Irish Champions Weekend to secure automatic and free entry to November’s Breeders’ Cup, writes Ben Hart.
The hotly-anticipated event in Keeneland, Kentucky, pits the world’s best thoroughbreds against one another over two days of top-quality racing, with two new entrants confirmed on day two of this weekend’s showpiece at the Curragh.
Highfield Princess was the first to secure safe passage, completing a stunning hat-trick of Group 1 victories after dominating from start to finish in the Al Basti Equiworld, Dubai Flying Five Stakes.
In the 19-runner field, the biggest since the race switched to the Curragh, the pre-race favourite eased to the line in now customary fashion, with jockey Jason Hart following up on supreme rides at Deauville and York.
Despite having a busy summer, the five-year-old showed no signs of fatigue, arguably delivering her best ride of the lot to see off challenges from Flotus and New York City.
There was little to separate a fiercely competitive field in the early stages
of the five-furlong encounter, with overseas contender Erosandpsyche among those threatening to spoil the party.
But John Quinn’s star filly extended her early lead as the line approached, with the €400,000 prize money never in doubt.
It proved the latest chapter in a remarkable rags-to-riches story with a fourth-place finish over seven furlongs at Doncaster 12 months ago now a distant memory.
“I was just saying to the boss it was probably our best performance this year, you don’t usually get to take back a furlong and a half in a five-furlong sprint,” said Hart.
“I was able to sit back against her the whole race and when I gave her a squeeze she picked up really well. She’d run through a brick wall this mare and she’s a credit to everyone, really.
“She’s very special and obviously dropping back down to five has been key. It’s hard to put into words what she’s like. She’s just kept climbing. It’s nice that she has fulfilled her full potential.”
There was to be no one-two for the favourites though, as Chris Hayes and Tahiyra left it late to triumph in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
Favourite Mediate had won each of her previous four races and it seemed that the mare was coasting to another win before a storming turn of foot from Tahiyra, half-sister of Tarnawa.
After a mightily impressive ride in just her second career start, Dermot Weld’s filly looks destined for greatness and will be one to watch in the future, including at the 2000 Guineas.
“It’s a big step up, obviously in grade, we thought she was up to it but I was always going to have to take my time with it and teach her a little bit more today," said Hayes.
"I was shocked at the ease with which she was doing it, she was floating through the ground, I saw Ryan (Moore) quicken up and I said I better sit for another 10 strides because I didn’t want to give him a hand.
“It’s great, you dream of riding winners like that for these connections.”