Magical (9/2) beat the world’s number one-ranked horse Gaiyyath to claim back-to-back wins in the Group 1 Longines Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.
The Séamie Heffernan-ridden mare achieved her seventh Group 1 success in the process as the daughter of Galileo defeated the 8/13 favourite in the 10-furlong contest.
Ghaiyyath, who took up his customary front running role under William Buick, found the Ballydoyle mare close by throughout as the son of Dubawi never held a strong advantage over the Aidan O’Brien-trained five-year-old.
Heading into the straight, the Godolphin favourite led from Magical on his outside and her stable companion, Japan and Ryan Moore, on his inside. The mare took the lead with a furlong to run, but try as he did to get Ghaiyyath to pass her, William Buick and the Charlie Appleyby-trained runner had to settle for second as Magical ran out a three-quarters-of-a-length winner. The result overturned the pair’s most recent meeting when Ghaiyyath got the better of the Coolmore partners-owned mare in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York.
Japan, who had briefly challenged with intent early in the home straight faded disappointingly again as another O’Brien runner, Armory (66/1), ran on well to finish a further one-and-a-quarter lengths behind Ghaiyyth in third.
Aidan O’Brien greeted his 9th winner of the Irish Champion Stakes by explaining:
“We were going to go with him today and sit 3/4 [of a length] off him for a solid even match. She eyeballed him all the way and when you do that, there’s always a chance that the ones coming from behind will get you but we took a chance and let him and her match up all the way. There are no excuses here at this track and she’s incredibly tough and genuine with speed and determination – she has everything and Séamie gave her a brilliant ride.”
Winning rider, Séamie Heffernan, who also guided the mare to success in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh earlier this season, said of the race:
“I felt that the favourite knew we were there at the start and we were with him every step of the way today – he knew we meant business.”
Heffernan, winning his third Longines Irish Champion Stakes after the victories of Cape Blanco and So You Think, was full of praise for his willing partner Magical, stating:
“Some horses can disappoint you when they seem like champions in the morning, but she has probably never given everything and still won seven Group 1s. She’s very sound and up for it every day. She’s a big and honest mare and to win a third one is massive for me – I work for a great team.”
Aidan O’Brien wasn’t willing to commit his star mare for the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, suggesting the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at the same track was also an option:
“Magical has the choice of the Arc or the fillies’ race [the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera] on the same day. It will depend on what the lads want to do with Love. The Breeders’ Cup could also suit her really well. We think she gets a mile and a quarter real strong and at a mile and a half you probably have to ride more of a race on her.”
Magical, who was winning the 10th race of her 13 starts in Ireland, was due to be retired last season after wins in the Group 1 Longines Irish Champions Stakes, the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot and the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup (which she also won this year). She was to be covered by Coolmore stallion No Nay Never, but a change of mind by the owners meant she is still racing this season.