Pinatubo produced an astonishing performance to land the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh.
Representing the connections that were successful in last year’s renewal with Quorto, the Charlie Appleby-trained colt was sent off favourite for the Group One feature on the back of an unbeaten four-race campaign that had included victories at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood.
Always travelling sweetly for William Buick, the Godolphin-owned Shamardal colt cruised to the front inside the three-furlong pole and when Buick let him loose with a furlong and a half to run, he simply rocketed clear.
The race was immediately over as a contest, with nine lengths eventually separating the winner from nearest pursuer Armory.
Appleby said: “He’s a trainer’s dream once you get to know him, because he doesn’t excite you in the morning to say the least. We started his career off at Wolverhampton for a reason, as we didn’t really know he was in the yard.
“He’s done nothing but improve with each run. James (Doyle) said he didn’t really travel in the first half of the race at Goodwood, and I said to William this morning, ‘don’t panic if this horse isn’t travelling with you early, as at home he won’t pick the bridle up’.
“As soon as William gave him a squeeze he soon came back on the bridle and from two down I couldn’t see him getting beat. It’s not often you can say that at this level.
“I gave him a gallop midweek with some of the nicer two-year-olds trying to give myself a bit of confidence and I probably did the reverse, as Royal Crusade (Champagne Stakes runner-up) put him in his place.
“He just goes through the motions and the jockey gets off and says he’s moving well. He goes home and eats, drinks, sleeps and that’s the end of it. We only ever see the best of him when he turns up at the track, which is a nice position to be in.
“The way he’s developing as an individual over the last six week has been noticeable. People were questioning whether he would just be a two-year-old, but he’s got a nice walk and presence about him. He’s a very exciting horse.”
He added on plans: “I’ll have to discuss things with Sheikh Mohammed, but the way he’s won there I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t run in the Dewhurst (at Newmarket on October 12).”
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Charlie Appleby expects Pinatubo to prove a tough nut to crack when he puts his unbeaten record on the line in the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh.
The Shamardal colt has been the star juvenile season of the season so far – winning each of his four starts, including stunning displays in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Vintage at Glorious Goodwood.
The form of the latter race in particular could hardly be working out better, with the placed horses – Positive and Lope Y Fernandez – both winning at Pattern level since.
Pinatubo tests the water at Group One level for the first time on Sunday, with Appleby bidding for back-to-back victories in the race following the success of Quorto 12 months ago.
“It looks a good race, but that’s what you expect when you step up to Group One level,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“Our horse is in good order. He looks well, and his form is working out well.
“He’s not doing anything different to what he was doing earlier in the summer. He’s not a brilliant workhorse, but he seems to produce his A-game in the afternoons.
“It’s his first start at Group One level. But his preparation has gone well, and I think he’s the one they’ve all got to beat.”
Aidan O’Brien has already saddled 11 winners of the National Stakes – and this year fires a four-pronged assault.
The Ballydoyle handler’s chief contender appears to be Armory, who claimed his third win from four starts in the Futurity Stakes over this course and distance last month.
Armory is joined by Arizona – winner of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and subsequently fourth in the Prix Morny at Deauville – as well as outsiders Iberia and Toronto, with O’Brien keen to provide competition for Pinatubo.
He said: “Armory is in good shape. Nobody wants to see easy races – they all want to see the good horses clash.
“You win some and lose some. You learn if you have to improve or if you are good enough.”
Jim Bolger’s Geometrical, the Mark Johnston-trained Monoski and Roman Turbo from Mick Halford’s yard are the other hopefuls.
The two-year-old fillies get their chance to shine in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, with Jessica Harrington’s Albigna the star attraction.
The daughter of Zoffany has been kept fresh for this Group One assignment since following up her maiden success at this track with victory in the Group Two Airlie Stud Stakes at the end of June.
“She’s all set for it, and you’d hope the step up to seven furlongs will suit her,” said Harrington.
“She’s not run for a while. I hope she’s the one to beat – but you never know, because there are one or two in there who have just won maidens.
“We’ll wait and see what happens on the day.”
Albigna’s biggest threat appears to be Roger Varian’s British raider Daahyeh – winner of the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot before being touched off by Raffle Prize in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket.
“I am hopeful of her staying the seven furlongs and very happy with her condition,” Varian told irishchampionsweekend.ie.
“The Curragh should be no problem, but we have to find out about the seven furlongs – and it is a stiff seven furlongs there.
“That said, she is a similar type of filly to Cursory Glance, who won the Moyglare for us in 2014, having also won the Albany.
“She boasts some of the best juvenile filly form and has strong credentials in the race, even if it is always a hot race at the Curragh.”
Three-time Group One winner Best Solution returns to action in the Sun Racing September Stakes at Kempton on Saturday.
A real flag-bearer for Saeed bin Suroor last summer, he won the Princess of Wales’s Stakes, Grosser Preis Von Berlin and Grosser Preis Von Baden before heading to Australia.
His winning spree continued with a narrow victory in the prestigious Caulfield Cup, but he has not been seen since finishing eighth in the Melbourne Cup in November.
“This will be his first race since the Melbourne Cup,” said the Godolphin handler.
“He had a great season last year, but also a very tough season, so we gave him a long break and this is just a start back for him.
“We’ll start now with him, he’s working really well. The last time he worked on the Watered gallop in Newmarket, I was really pleased.
“He’s in good condition, this is the start for him before we begin to look at Group Ones again.
“He’s not going to Australia this year – we’ll just keep all our options open. We’ll see how he runs in this and then decide on his future.”
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