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Matron Stakes: Fancy Blue seeking Group One hat-trick at Leopardstown

Fri 11 Sep 2020

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Donnacha O’Brien is looking forward to starting Fancy Blue’s autumn campaign in the Coolmore America “Justify” Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The filly gave the first-season trainer a first Classic success in the French Oaks at Chantilly and backed that up in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwoood.

“It’s a great weekend, the biggest in Irish racing and I’m excited about having horses to run,” he said.

“Fancy Blue starts out on her autumn campaign in the Matron Stakes and while the trip might not be ideal, she does have good form over a mile and she ran well in the Irish Guineas over this distance.”

Donnacha O'Brien discusses Fancy Blue ahead of Irish Champions Weekend

Peaceful, who beat Fancy Blue in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and was a close third to her in France, is one of three rivals trained by his father, Aidan. So Wonderful and Love Locket are his other runners with 11 declared in total.

Johnny Murtagh is hoping Know It All can repeat her run in the Prix Rothschild when she was only beaten three-quarters of a length in third place behind Watch Me.

“Know It All ran very well in the Rothschild in France, so the plan was always to come back to the Matron,” he said.

“She’s fresh and well – she’s the best horse we have in the stable. I thought if we had a good horse this year, it was her.

“She ran well last year and just got caught in a Group Three, but this year has gone quite smoothly for her. Her first run was nice, she won a Group Three the next time, so we’re all guns blazing towards the Matron Stakes.

“She’s a very big filly, good breeding. Sheikh Fahad owns her and she has a good sire (Lord Kanaloa) – I didn’t know much about him, but he’s one of the top stallions in Japan.

“I think she’s going there with a great chance. She has to improve seven to 10lb to be involved in the finish with all the good fillies’ that are in it.”

Johnny Murtagh looks forward to Irish Champions Weekend

Murtagh also saddles Champers Elysees, who has won her last three races culminating in a Group Three at Gowran Park.

“When she won at the Curragh, I thought ‘this one will get some black type’. She was supposed to be sold, but the deal fell through,” he said.

“Her performance in Galway blew me away. I was very surprised the way that she won, the way she travelled and the way she quickened on ground that we weren’t sure about.

“Since Galway she’d had very clear run – it’s been smooth, her work has been good and she hasn’t missed a day. At the start of the year, did I think she would be rated 110? No, but she has a great heart. She’s always been a couple of lengths behind Know It All, but she’s getting closer now.

“She has to improve seven to 10lb again and it’s her first time over a mile.”

O’Brien senior is happy to give Vatican City another chance in the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile.

“We went a mile and a half in the Derby and it was probably too far,” he said.

“We brought him back to a mile at Goodwood and he got galloped into going down the hill. A shoe got pulled off and he lost his action quickly. It was a non-event and we learnt nothing from it. He’s very well.”

The Ballydoyle handler also has Lancaster House and Royal Dornoch in the 10-runner field.

Ken Condon discusses his Irish Champions Weekend contenders

Ken Condon is hoping Trais Fluors will put his best foot forward.

“If you look at his form when he was trained by a master in Andre Fabre, he didn’t win enough,” he said.

“He’s good at coming third or fourth and we often joke ourselves that he could be third in a Group One and be third in a claimer – he’s just that type of horse.

“If everything fell right and he’s in good humour and on a going day, he’s a talented sort of horse. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet – he’s mercurial, but he has enough ability to run well.”

British interests rest with John Quinn’s Safe Voyage, the David O’Meara-trained Escobar and Century Dream, representing Simon and Ed Crisford.

O’Brien senior feels Tiger Moth’s class will stand him in good stead in the Group Three Paddy Power “Is It 2021 Yet?” Stakes.

The Galileo colt was just beaten by his stablemate Santiago in the Irish Derby on only his third start and has his first race since then.

“He’s good. He’s had a nice long break and is in good form. We think he’s a mile-and-a-quarter, mile-and-a-half horse,” he said.

“He has a little bit of class.”

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Tiger Moth now takes on older horses, including Buckhurst and Patrick Sarsfield.

Murtagh steps Fourhometwo up into Group Three company in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes after opening his account on his second start at Galway after a sound debut run when runner-up at Gowran.

“He was still a bit green at Galway, a bit raw and learning on the job, but he’s a gorgeous horse and is owned by some really nice people that I met out in Australia,” said Murtagh.

“He’s a talented horse and we will find out how good he is.”

There are plenty of promising types among the 10 runners, including the Joseph O’Brien-trained pair of Liffey River and Snapraeterea.

“Both have earned their place in the race and we’re hoping they can run with credit in what looks a good race,” he said.

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