O’Brien chasing fifth Irish St. Leger
Order of St. George, the best staying horse in Europe during 2016 and 2017, was retired by trainer Aidan O’Brien earlier this week. Sixyear-old Order of St. George had his coming-out party as a 3-year-old in the 2015 Irish St. Leger and won it again last year, but even absent his former staying star, O’Brien might be in line to win the race a fifth time.
Three-year-old Flag of Honour is 2 for 2 since being stretched to the St. Leger’s 1 3/4-mile distance. He gets eight pounds from his older rivals Sunday and is the mild antepost favorite to beat fellow 3-year-old Latrobe in one of four Group 1 races on The Curragh card.
Latrobe, trained by Joseph O’Brien, beat only one horse in the Juddmonte International on Aug. 22 at York but returns to the course where he won the Group 1 Irish Derby on June 30. Latrobe, unlike Flag of Honour, has yet to be tested over a true staying trip but appears to be the type of horse to go farther than 1 1/2 miles.
Two of the earlier Group 1’s on the card are Breeders’ Cup Challenge races – the Moyglare Stud for 2-year-old fillies offers to the winner automatic fees-paid entry into the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf plus travel expenses to Churchill Downs this fall, while the Flying Five Stakes is linked to the BC Turf Sprint.
Aidan O’Brien has trained the Moyglare Stud winner eight of the last 18 years and has three of the 10 fillies entered Sunday in this sevenfurlong race. Hermosa, a longshot, finished sixth last out in the Group 3 Debutante Stakes over seven furlongs at The Curragh, a race in which Zagitova finished third by 2 3/4 lengths after setting the pace as the favorite. Ryan Moore rides Zagitova back, while Donnacha O’Brien has a return call on Just Wonderful, a two-time Curragh winner coming off a last-to-first victory in the Group 3 Flame of Tara Irish EBF Stakes over one mile.
Skitter Skatter, who won the Debutante, and Main Edition, winner of the Albany at Royal Ascot and the Group 3 Solera last out over seven furlongs at Newmarket, also are part of an evenly matched group.
None of the top European sprinters are in the fivefurlong Flying Five, which has Havana Grey as an early favorite. A decent fifth of 15 last out in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes in England, Havana Grey’s support is based in no small part on his courseand-distance win July 22 in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes. O’Brien will try Sioux Nation, who was eighth in the Nunthorpe and has not made great progress since an encouraging 2-year-old campaign.
The card’s fourth Group 1, the National Stakes for 2-year-olds, has no Breeders’ Cup Challenge connections but often yields important winners. Heavily favored in this edition is Godolphin’s Quorto, a open-lengths winner of his first two starts, the last of which was the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket.