The first group I race of the year for juveniles was intended to be a coming-out party for the undefeated Henrythenavigator. Instead, 25-1 outsider Saoirse Abu surprised the field in the Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes (Ire-I) at The Curragh Aug. 12.
Henrythenavigator, unbeaten in two starts and coming off an impressive victory in the Coventry Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot, was expected to continue his winning streak for trainer Aidan O’Brien and owner Susan Magnier. Both those victories had come on good to firm turf, however, a far cry from the soft to heavy going found at The Curragh on this day.
Kieren Fallon, aboard the heavy favorite for the first time, said after the race: “I knew we were in trouble going to the start, as my horse wasn’t at all happy on the ground.”
Saoirse Abu, a daughter of Mr. Greeley trained by Jim Bolger, found the heavy going much to her liking. The addition of blinkers for this race also helped keep her focused on running.
The chestnut filly raced in second behind O’Brien’s other entrant, Warsaw, before taking command two furlongs out. Fallon drove Henrythenavigator up to challenge the filly with a furlong left, but Kevin Manning and Saoirse Abu would not be denied and battled back to recapture the lead 100 yards from the wire.
Saoirse Abu pulled away to win by a length over Henrythenavigator, with Elletelle another 1 3/4-lengths back in third. Winning time for the six furlongs was 1:18.8.
Saoirse Abu joins her stablemate Finsceal Beo, another daughter of Mr. Greeley, as a group I winner for trainer Jim Bolger. She may make her next start in the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Ire-I) in early September.
Saoirse Abu hails from a rich female family. She is out of the young mare Out Too Late, who is by Future Storm. Out Too Late is a half-sister to Morning Devotion, the dam of champion Balanchine and group II winner Romanov.