Flat out in summer flourish
Jessica Harrington can further boost her Flat profile today, writes Ronan Groome
If someone had told you at the start of this year's Flat season that come late August, Jessica Harrington would hold the market leader for both next year's 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, you would probably be calling for more than just the men in white coats. But that is a possibility that will become a reality at The Curragh today if the supplemented Laughing Lashes can take the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes.
The statement is probably a bit unfair to Harrington, who is predominantly known as a top-jumps trainer, having trained the likes of Moscow Flyer, Macs Joy and Cork All Star, and having been successful at Cheltenham and Punchestown regularly, but she has been quietly going about her business on the Flat in recent seasons as well. She trained Curtain Call to win the Group Two Beresford Stakes in 2007, she trained Long Lashes to win a listed race last year and she trained the multiple Group-race winner Jumbajukiba, which was probably the main flag-bearer of her Flat-racing portfolio.
But this Flat season has been her most successful so far. Pathfork's impressive success in the Group Two Futurity Stakes last week prompted mass movements in the 2,000 Guineas' market. His one-and-a-half length win from Jim Bolger's Glor Na Mara, which had only been beaten a half-a-length by Zoffany on its previous run, saw all bookmakers running for cover, forcing Pathfork's price to be halved everywhere.
"It just so happened that I had some really nice horses sent to me this season," says Harrington, "and everything has gone to plan so far. I always thought Pathfork was a really nice horse, he has done everything right and it's lovely to have a horse like him."
A win for Laughing Lashes would provide a similar result and the second-favourite for today's big race was well supported in the betting all last week. The cost of being supplemented for today's race was €23,500, but it was an easy decision for connections. "It was the logical thing to do really, she ticks all the boxes and it was always going to be the next step for her after she won so well last time," added Harrington.
Indeed, Laughing Lashes' win in the Group Two Keeneland Debutante Stakes was a really good performance. The daughter of Mr Greeley picked up well for Fran Berry at the two-furlong pole and was then able to pull away from two Ballydoyle horses, Misty For Me and Together, which both re-oppose today. The performance also tells you how much Laughing Lashes has improved for each run; she had been beaten by O'Brien's Together in a Group Three at Leopardstown on her previous run, before she turned the tables at The Curragh three weeks ago.
"She's a big filly, so she has improved with each run. Whatever she does this year is a bonus because she will much better next year," said Harrington.
Laughing Lashes is American bred, out of an Unbridled Song mare. She was bought in Keeneland by leading bloodstock agent Ben McElroy, who heads a syndicate of eight which also includes Punchestown's racing manager Ritchie Galway, Ruby Walsh's wife Gillian and Dermot Cox, husband of Horse Racing Ireland's marketing manager Tamso Doyle. The same syndicate owned Long Lashes last year, which was also trained by Harrington, before it was sold on to Godolphin after winning a listed race at The Curragh on its debut.
Laughing Lashes will face extremely tough opposition, spearheaded by the current Guineas marker leader Memory, trained by Richard Hannon who can do no wrong with his two-year-olds this season. Memory is owned by a Highclere Thoroughbred syndicate, and they are also having a terrific season, having organised another lucky group to own Harbinger, which was amazing in the King George before subsequently retiring due to injury.
Memory has got all the form in the book so far. She took the Group Three Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot before taking the Group Two Cherry Hinton Stakes at Newmarket on her most recent start, where she showed a fantastic turn of foot having been stuck behind a wall of horses two furlongs out with nowhere to go. She is the one to beat here.
There are other dangerous fillies lurking in the rest of the field. Why and Wild Wind join the other two Ballydoyle fillies, Together and Misty For Me, to strengthen Aidan O'Brien's team. There was also money around for the latter-mentioned during last week, another which will have to turn the tables with Laughing Lashes on their run in the Debutante Stakes last time.
Kevin Prendergast took this race last year with Termagant, and he is looking for a big run from his sole representative this time round, the Lady O'Reilly-owned Kissable, which looked good when taking her maiden at Leopardstown and may have been unlucky on her next start when finishing third in the same Group Three in which Together and Laughing Lashes finished first and second. She had to come widest of all around the bend, but still stayed on really well, and was only beaten under three lengths in the end.
But the biggest story to come out of the race would most certainly be another big success on the Flat for Jessica Harrington. Most of the big jumps trainers have their preparation plans in full flow with the new season kicking off in about a month or so, but Harrington still has a few other distractions to attend to now, with Pathfork due to run again this season as well. And as the jumps season will come to a close next May, the Moone-based trainer could well be getting busy again.