First 5 Star Showjumping and O’Brien Trainers Reign Supreme

The weekend saw some major Group 1 racing in Europe and the first five star show jumping event since March staged in The Netherlands. In Ireland, several  of the Irish Group 1 races of the year took place as well as the last classic in the UK with the O’Brien trainers taking most of the spoils. The Arqana Sale at Deauville in France saw three millionaire yearlings sold.

Hot today as the London Olympia Horse show joins the other five winter World Cup Qualifiers in being cancelled. See general news below


Don VHP Z retires from Grand Prix successes

In The Netherlands, the first Global Championships Tour took place at Valkenwaard. This, an FEI 5 star competition comprising rounds at Grand Prix level. In the individual Global Challenge class, the aptly named Catch Me Not S took the class by a clear 3 seconds. The 14 year old grey gelding was ridden for Sweden by Peder Fredricson. Nine of the riders completed the class with no penalties of which Frenchman Simon Delestre was second riding Hermes Ryan and Shane Breen from Ireland riding 27 Ipswich in third. In a separate class, the 5 star Grand Prix, there were 21 combinations facing the Uliano Vezzani designed course of 12 jumps with 15 jumping efforts. There was only one double clear round – supplied by Brazil’s Marlon Modolo-Zanotelli riding Icarus, a 12 year old stallion. The best of the 4 faulters in the second round was Edwina Tops-Alexander from Australia riding Identity Vitseroel with Belgium’s Jos Verlooy coming third. The top Netherland rider was Frank Schuttert who came fourth and these were the only riders to achieve a clear first round.

The 16 year old stallion Don VHP has been retired after a very successful career. Originally owned and managed by The Brendon Stud in England, and ridden by Louise Simpson (nee Pavitt) from young horse classes to Grand Prix level. In 2013, the horse was sold to Dutchman Harrie Smolders, who won in him at Grand Prix level in all the major championships in the world.


Group 1 races seemed everywhere this weekend staged in Ireland, England, France and Germany. The most prestigious race was the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown before the Group 1 band wagon went to The Curragh for a further four Group I races on Sunday.

In the Matron Stakes, for 3 year olds and up over 1 mile with 11 runners, Champers Elysees won her fourth race of the season for jockey turned successful trained Jonny Murtagh, giving him his first Group 1 race as a trainer. The O’Brien’s held second and third positions, Peaceful for Aidan in second and Donnacha’s Fancy Blue, the favourite for the race, in third.

Magical repeats win at Leopardstown Irish Champion Stakes

The Champion Stakes attracted 6 runners going for the 427,500 euro winner’s prize for the 1 mile 2 furlong contest. Unsurprisingly, Aidan O’Brien had three of the runners with Charlie Appleby sending over the unbeaten Ghaiyaath. The O’Brien runners included Japan – who has failed to win this term but still talked about with admiration for some reason, Magical who has won twice and Armoury who won his last start. Jean Claude Rouget sent Sottsass from France, winner for this year’s Prix Ganay and The French Derby and finally Jessica Harrington had Leo de Fury as her representative. The race was a very tactical affair. How were the jockeys going to challenge Ghaiyaath’s front running? Would the 3 year old Sottass show enough speed with a weight age advantage? The race started with Ghaiyaath, as usual going to the front, but Magical, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Shamus Heffernan kept very close tabs on the front runner and had the speed in the end, as she made the front runner go faster throughout the race than he wanted, to overtake him at the end and win the race for the second time in consecutive years. Ghaiyaath was second and Sottass was third. It was an exciting renewal of the race.

Galileo Chrome takes the St Ledger Stakes

At Doncaster, The last and oldest classic was run – The St Ledger – see our article on this from last week. There were eleven runners as English King was pulled out.  Would Santiago handle to firmer ground, he has only really performed well with plenty of give in the ground? Would Pyledriver have the pedigree to be a true stayer? Would Joseph O’Brien’s tendency to put horses in at the deep end and be absolutely right to do so again, work? At the start, several horses ran very freely to begin with which scuppered their chances. Joseph O’Brien was right again and became only the second man to both ride and train a winner of the race, the first being Harry Wragg in 1969. Galileo Chrome took the race in the final furlong, ridden by Tom Marquand. This was Tom’s first classic win and as a spare ride he only got 24 hours earlier was well deserved. Andrew Balding trained Berkshire Rocco, not fancied, was a brilliant second with Pyledriver who did not get the distance but ran on really gamely, third. Favourite Santiago did not handle the ground and was fourth.

Back in Ireland, this time at the Curragh, there were four further Group 1 races, two of which were for juveniles. The first was The Derrinstown Flying Five Stakes, a sprinting 5 furlong contest for older horses attracting 14 runners. First home was Glass Slippers, who won the race last year and seems to come to herself at this time of year, she will now try to retain her crown at the Prix L’Abbey at Longchamp on Arc day.

This was followed by the first of the two two year old races, The Moyglare Stud Stakes for fillies only over seven furlongs with 13 runners. Trainer Joseph O’Brien, who can do now wrong at present had Pretty Georgeous off as favourite. Mother Earth took the runners along until the furlong pole when Shale burst through to win, trained by brother Donnacha. The favourite was second with Oodnadatta coming third. Shale was ridden by Ryan Moore. She is by the prolific 22 year old stallion Galileo and out of a thousand Guineas winner Homecoming Queen.

In the good to yielding ground, The National Stakes, another for the juveniles but for colts again over 7 furlongs. There were ten who went to the start. Drama accompanied the start when just before the off, Mason reared up in the stalls and after a vet’s inspection was re-loaded and allowed to run. Military Style took them along with Mason in second. Again, the last furlong was decisive as Thunder Moon trained by Joseph O’Brien this time swept to the front with electrifying speed. The colt is by Zoffany and out of a Saddlers Wells mare. Father Aidan O’Brien took the minor placings with St Mark’s Basilica in second and Lucky Vega in third.

Finally, not to be outdone – The Irish St Ledger which had the same conditions as the UK equivalent except the race is for 3 year olds and up and where eight runners went to post; therefore this race cannot be considered a classic. In a weak re-newel, for the second time in two years, the winner was Search for a Star, trained by Dermot Weld and ridden by Oisen Orr.

Mogul get the better of Stradivarius at Longchamp

In France, The Grand Prix de Paris over 1 ½ miles was the first of the Group 1s with ten runners for 3 year olds only. Mogul, trained by Aidan O’Brien, at last proved himself when actually producing a result after several disappointing runs against his nine rivals. He beat Swoop by a good two lengths with Gold Trip in third. Epsom Derby winner, Serpentine was fourth only with English King, another talked about horse, and re-routed from the Doncaster Classic coming sixth, showing that he is more talk than action!

Over the same distance, The Prix Vermeille (Group 1) for 3 year olds fillies and up followed, and is considered a prep race for the Arc next month. This also went to Ireland, but this time Dermot Weld was the trainer of Tarnawa who won easily by 3 lengths and is owned by The Aga Khan. Second was French trained Raabihah and third Dame Malliot.

In a short foot note to Longchamp, one of our favourite horses in training; John Gosden’s Stradivarius was beaten by Anthony Van Dyck, 2019’s Epsom Derby winner in the Prix Foy (Group 2). It was the first time he has won since that Epsom run. Such a shame!

Barney Roy wins for Charlie Appleby in Baden Baden

In Germany at Baden Baden, they ran the 148th running of the Longines Grosse Preis Von Baden Baden which attracted 8 runners for the 1 ½ mile race for 3 year olds and up. This was won comfortably by Barney Roy, sent over from the UK by Charlie Appleby and ridden by James Doyle. Second was also UK based, Communique, trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by Franny Norton. The rest of the runners were all German based, the best of them Torquator Tasso trained by Marcel Weiss came third.

In the sales ring, finally the Arqana Sales got underway in Deauville France, a month later than originally scheduled. There were three seven figure lots, including the highest price at Arqana for five years, being the top at 2.5 million Euros for a Dubawi filly, sister to Sottsass. The average and median were both down considerably despite the three top sales.

General News

With the Covid 19 still so prevalent around Europe and the rest of the world, several European rounds of this winter’s World Cup Qualifiers have already succumbed to cancellations. The latest confirmed abandonment is the Amsterdam round which was to have been held in mid-January 2021. Other confirmed cancellations are at Madrid, Oslo, Helsinki and Stuttgart.

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