Homecoming's the Guineas Queen
Trainer Aidan O'Brien completed a Guineas double at Newmarket Sunday, not with hot favorite Maybe, but with unheralded 25-1 shot Homecoming Queen. Unlike stablemate Camelot, who had to fight from off the pace for Saturday's Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas, Homecoming Queen ran her rivals ragged on the front end in Sunday's Group 1 One Thousand Guineas and romped by nine lengths.
With Joseph O'Brien siding with the hitherto unbeaten Maybe, who ended up third, Ryan Moore took over the mount on Homecoming Queen. The result was a master-stroke for Coolmore. Homecoming Queen is by Coolmore stallion Holy Roman Emperor and a three-quarter sister to another, champion Dylan Thomas.
"It was an incredible performance," Aidan O'Brien enthused, "and Joseph said she was the filly he was most worried about as she would be going off in front and it was Maybe's first run."
The name might ring a bell for American racing fans, for Homecoming Queen shipped to Churchill Downs last November for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she was unhappy on the dirt and trailed home last. Prior to that debacle, she had been a progressive two-year-old, and that pattern of improvement with racing continued at the beginning of this season. Trounced in the Group 3 Park Express Stakes in her March 25 return, Homecoming Queen moved forward substantially to capture the Group 3 Leopardstown One Thousand Guineas Trial April 15, and took another leap here.
But sadly, before the crowd could witness her triumph, it had to endure a pre-race tragedy. The promising filly Gray Pearl became unnerved in the gate, tried to get out, ended up getting trapped, and suffered a spinal chord injury. She was too severely hurt to be saved, and had to be euthanized.
Chris Hammond, the attending British Horseracing Authority veterinary officer, commented on the decision.
"On examination by the racecourse vet (Simon Waterhouse), it became evident that she had lost the use of her hind legs and was suffering from an apparent spinal chord injury," Hammond said. "To minimize distress to the filly, a decision was made to have her put down on welfare grounds. This decision was taken after consultation between myself and the racecourse vet."
Following a delay as Gray Pearl was loaded in an ambulance, the rest of the Guineas field was sent on its way down the Rowley Mile. At first, Homecoming Queen just appeared to be bowling along as pacemaker for Maybe, but when she struck another gear and shot clear, the reality dawned. Homecoming Queen simply routed them in a very respectable time in the good-to-soft conditions -- 1:40 2/5, considerably faster than the 1:42 2/5 clocked by Camelot in his tussle with French Fifteen.
"Aidan just said she was very fit and well and is a little devil -- you never know what she is going to do," Moore said. "I thought I was going a stride too quick really, but she just kept going. She obviously enjoys going like that and although there is not much of her, she tries very hard and is very tough."
"It's incredible," Aidan O'Brien raved. "She's a hardy, tough filly with a great pedigree. In the last couple of weeks she's gone into a different zone.
"She can go to the Irish Guineas (Group 1 at the Curragh May 27)or she can go anywhere -- the Curragh, Ascot and Epsom are all in the mix. There are lot of options open to her now. She's a very progressive filly."
The John Gosden-trained Starscope stayed on well for runner-up honors, besting Maybe by one length. Gosden's other runner, The Fugue, also closed for a solid fourth in just her second start.
Gosden was pleased with having two of the top four.
"I was thrilled with both my fillies, who will go further in time and will want a longer trip," he told PA Sport. "They've run great but, unfortunately, The Fugue has been struck into on her hind leg and I hope she'll be OK. Starscope has run well and is a nice prospect."
Completing the order of finish were La Collina, Alla Speranza, Lily's Angel, Laugh Out Loud, Nayarra, Sunday Times, Diala, Mashoora, Lightening Pearl, Radio Gaga, Moonstone Magic and Godolphin's duo of Discourse and Lyric of Light, who never looked comfortable.
Homecoming Queen has already has a busy career, as her 14-4-1-2 mark attests. She took eight tries just to break her maiden, but then her learning curve took off. Next she missed by a neck in the Group 3 C.L. Weld Park Stakes, followed by a romp in the Lanwades and Staffordstown Studs Stakes, before her fruitless trip to Churchill.
"When Seamus (Heffernan) won on her last year, he didn't know what to make of her but said she could be very smart," the trainer said, and Joseph (O'Brien) won a listed race on her at the Curragh and said she had a massive engine. We went to the Breeders' Cup with her after that, but she was entitled to run a little bit disappointing there and she got a bit tired first time up at the Curragh this year before winning nicely at Leopardstown last time.
"When a filly has a pedigree like that and they start progressing, they can really go on -- Dylan Thomas and Holy Roman Emperor were progressive like that as well."
Bred by Tower Bloodstock in Ireland, Homecoming Queen races for Coolmore principals Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith. She is out of the prolific Diesis mare Lagrion, who is now the dam of four Group 1 performers -- European champion two-year-old filly Queen's Logic (herself the dam of England's highweight sprint filly Lady of the Desert), European Horse of the Year Dylan Thomas, Group 1 Epsom Oaks runner-up Remember When and now Homecoming Queen.
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