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Karl Burke pays tribute to Laurens as multiple Group One-winning mare bows out

Sun 6 Oct 2019

Karl Burke will be forever grateful for the multiple Group One-winning deeds of the brilliant Laurens.

The filly, pride and joy of Middleham Moor trainer Burke and owner John Dance over the past three seasons, was unable to take her top-level tally to seven when she mustered only seventh of nine behind resurgent old rival Billesdon Brook in defence of her Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes title.

Burke conceded in Saturday’s aftermath that Laurens’ valedictory performance at Newmarket and her previous attempt to retain another title, Leopardstown’s Matron Stakes last month, were confirmation that at the age of four she is ready to head to the paddocks.

Nonetheless, he rightly concluded that a campaign which extended Laurens’ Group One-winning sequence for a third successive year was “a long way from being a disaster”.

Burke and Dance told us about what made Laurens special before her return this year

Burke pointed out Laurens’ achievements are remarkable in their own right.

“There are not many colts or fillies that win a Group One at two, three and four – so for her to do that is fantastic,” he said.

“It has been a long way from being a disaster keeping her in training this year.

“Maybe I could have turned the screw a little harder going into the Lockinge, but she was beaten on the day fair and square.

2018 Longines Irish Champions Weekend – Leopardstown Racecourse
2018 Longines Irish Champions Weekend – Leopardstown Racecourse

“I think the Matron and here show she has had enough. But she has been a brilliant mare.”

Among Laurens’ most memorable triumphs, Burke cherishes especially two ‘away wins’.

He said: “I think the two that stand out are winning the Prix de Diane and the Matron last year – which was fantastic.

“To go to Ireland and win that was a great weekend. If you asked me for one, the Diane would probably be it – because it was my first Classic.”

Laurens’ final run ended in anti-climax, but Burke can hardly have any regrets over any aspect of her 17-race career.

“It wasn’t to be, but she owes us nothing,” he added. “She looked fantastic again…(and) she has shown all the right signs at home. The races have just taken their toll.

“I thought three (furlongs) out ‘here we go again’ – but as soon as (jockey) PJ (McDonald) pressed the button, he knew he was beaten.”

Long before this weekend, Burke and Dance had already dispensed with an initial plan to head for the Breeders’ Cup next month – after controversy over the safety of the Santa Anita track dissuaded the owner.

Burke said: “I always thought early in the year, and talking to John through the winter, that the Breeders’ Cup was on the agenda – and that’s why we started quite late in the Lockinge.

“But I think the fatalities in America put John off of America.”

The only remaining question was whether Laurens would bid farewell at Newmarket or ParisLongchamp.

“It was always here or the Foret,” Burke added. “To be fair to John, he was keen on the Foret, and I know she put up a good performance over seven at York – but to me, her best runs are at a mile, and she is a mile-two-and-a-half Classic winner. ”

Laurens’ absence from Burke’s North Yorkshire yard will be felt by all connections, of course, but none more so than his daughter – who has been closest to the filly throughout.

He said: “My daughter Lucy has played a huge part in her career – she has been with her from day one and has ridden her 99 per cent of the time.

“She deserves a lot of credit for her – and she will be a huge loss to her, and she will miss her more than anybody.

“That is the name of the game on the Flat, and we have been lucky enough to have a few good ones – but they do disappear pretty quick.

“Her last two runs have probably told us that the time has come to finish, and she is off to the paddocks now.

Laurens at Karl Burke’s Yard
Laurens at Karl Burke’s Yard

“I’m sure will be every bit as good there as she was on the racetrack.”

Laurens’ second career will bring lofty expectations too – and understandably Burke will not be saying no if Dance offers him any of her progeny to train.

“She is going to have a great life, and we hope she will breed some very good babies,” he said.

“If I can keep John happy, hopefully he will send me one!”

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