Pinatubo storms home to claim Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at The Curragh
Pinatubo had seasoned Curragh racegoers struggling for superlatives after an incredible nine-length rout in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes on a hugely emotional day two of Longines Irish Champions Weekend.
This was an afternoon that will be recalled for both the sensational performance of Pinatubo and the huge crowd that turned out to donate money and witness the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland, a charity event that has galvanised Irish racing that few races ever have or perhaps ever will.
In a performance even Smullen was almost overcome by, Charlie Appelby's Pinatubo trounced his rivals under William Buick by nine lengths in the premier two-year-old race of the season in Ireland, leaving his trainer in awe – and everyone else at Irish Flat headquarters – with bookmakers making him no better than 5-4 for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas next season.
"James (Doyle) said at Goodwood in the first half of the race he wasn't really travelling; three down here it was worrying again. At home he won't pick the bridle up," Appelby said.
"He is a trainer's dream. I gave him a gallop during the week with some of the nicer two-year-olds, trying to give myself a bit of confidence and I think we did the reverse to be honest: they out-galloped him!
"You don't get confidence at home but at the track, what can you say? The way he has won there I see no reason why we do not go to the Dewhurst Stakes.
"I've been very lucky to have some nice two-year-olds so far but he's amazing. He just doesn't do it in the morning.
"We've seen the change in him over the past six weeks; people were saying is he just a two-year-old? I can't fault him."
Given Smullen's long association with the Dermot Weld barn, it was hugely appropriate that his old boss enjoyed a double, taking the Moyglare 'Jewels' Blandford Stakes with Tarnawa and the Comer Group International Irish St Leger with 10-1 Search For A Song, Chris Hayes doing the steering on both.
Hayes revealed afterwards that a pre-race chat with Smullen was key to his tactical approach in a Leger that will be recalled for the daring of the rider in defiance of things going wrong, Search For A Song very keen but taking it up with around six furlongs to go.
"Nothing went right," Hayes admitted. "I'd a plan in my head and spoke to Pat. He didn't say a whole pile but what he said gave me the confidence that if I got in a rhythm, be it last, first or fifth, let her go.
"I knew early on I was getting in a row with her and there was no point. The Oaks was a mess here and I decided to do what I did. It was a great performance from her."
The other Group 1 race, the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes, continued Aidan O'Brien's amazing weekend, 12-1 Fairyland defeating stablemate So Perfect by a short head under Ryan Moore.
Buffer Zone took the Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Bold Lad' Sprint Handicap for Ger Lyons and Colin Keane.
Stone Circle scooped the €147,500 prize for victory in the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale Stakes under Andrea Atzeni for Michael Bell and the finale, the Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Northfields' Handicap, went to 12-1 One Cool Poet, who had created history by winning thrice at the Galway Festival for trainer Matthew Smith and rider Billy Lee this summer.
In truth, this was a hugely emotional day, with the Tony McCoy-ridden Quizzical landing a gamble for a thrilled Shiela Lavery in the Pat Smullen Champions Race For Cancer Trials Ireland race. "I can't believe they left McCoy alone in front," Smullen laughed, adding that he was "overcome" by the race.
Legendary former commentary Dessie Scahill called them home, while the other riders taking part were Ruby Walsh, John Murtagh, Charlie Swan, Joseph O'Brien, Ted Durcan, Paul Carberry, Richard Hughes and Kieren Fallon.