Laurens floors Alpha Centauri in Matron upset at Leopardstown

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Sat 15 Sep 2018

Laurens made every yard of the running to inflict a dramatic defeat on Alpha Centauri in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The Jessica Harrington-trained Alpha Centauri was seeking a fifth Group One win of the campaign, but it was Karl Burke's raider who caused a 10-1 upset.

A multiple Group One winner herself, including in the French Oaks, Laurens stays well in excess of the mile trip and Daniel Tudhope - deputising for the injured PJ McDonald - was keen to capitalise on her guaranteed stamina and set out to make every yard of the running.

She was in control with two furlongs to run, but Alpha Centauri appeared to be just hitting top gear for Colm O'Donoghue down the outside, with Magical also trying to make her presence felt between the two.

However, Alpha Centauri appeared to momentarily falter as she went upsides Laurens, and the British raider took full advantage to win by three quarters of a length. Aidan O'Brien's Clemmie was third.

Alpha Centauri was sent off the 30-100 favourite, and trainer Jessica Harrington reported this season's star filly had difficulty finding her stride in the closing stages. A post-race examination by a racecourse vet found the grey filly was clinically abnormal.

"She got to the lead and took a bad step," Harrington said. "Whatever happened she took a bad step and then took another one towards the end. It is hard to know (if she's sound) as the adrenaline is pumping now.

"Unfortunately that's racing and we'll live to fight another day.”

Her rider Colm O'Donoghue said: "She did everything right. She quickened up and went half a length up, but then she lost her action and half-knuckled over for a stride or two.

"When she recovered she did it a second time. Fair do's to the winner, though, as she's a top-class filly in her own right as well."

By contrast, Karl Burke was left savouring a fourth Group One for his filly and he said: “That was a fantastic effort and I’d have to say it’s one of the highlights of my career. She’s a brilliant filly.

“John (Dance, owner) was quite bullish about coming here and I was wondering would we look foolish dropping back from a mile and a half to a mile but the more I thought about it the more bullish I was getting about the idea.

“She’s a filly with a huge, long stride and we were keen to keep things as simple as possible and not be dictate to so we were happy to let her go along.”

The winning jockey Danny Tudhope was deputising for the injured Wexford native P.J McDonald who is side-lined after picking up a nasty injury in a fall at Newcastle earlier this month.

“It’s unfortunate for P.J. (McDonald) who is injured but Danny has given her a great ride,” Burke continued.

“I’d say looking at that we might keep her to a mile and instead go for the Sun Chariot over the Prix de l’Opera. Whether she stays in training we will see but John did say to me that if she wins another one of these Group One races before the end of the season she would stay in training so I’ll see can I hold him to that now.”

McDonald was at the course to witness Laurens' gutsy success and was pictured shaking hands with Tudhope in the winner's enclosure.

"To do that and beat the best miler we have seen for a long time, it is an absolutely great training performance from Karl Burke," the injured jockey said from a wheelchair. "I would much prefer to be on Danny’s side of it but I’m going to enjoy it with the lads tonight and have a bit if fun."

For owner John Dance this genuine and versatile daughter of Siyouni has been a wonder, winnning at the top level now in three different countries after her breakthough victory in the Fillies' Mile last season, and trumphs in France in the Saint Alary and Prix de Diane (French Oaks).

The Matron Stakes is a Win And You're In for the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in November but a return to Newmarket next month, and remaining at a mile, looks more likley.

"It was pretty exciting and coming off the bend I wondered if we had gone early enough," Dance said.

"Normally they get upsides and eyeball her and then that is when they wilt, but she was special today and wasn’t letting them get within a length of her.

"It is probably up there with the Diane but that is special because it was a Classic. As I said before the race we are taking on the world’s best miler and have beaten her.

"I thought we could run a personal best and come second. If we had, we were maybe thinking the Sun Chariot (next)."

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