Multiple group I winner Snow Fairy turned in yet another superb performance as she put away Nathaniel in the final furlong to win the $969,000 Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) at Leopardstown Sept. 8.
Final time for the 10 furlongs was 2:00.92 over the good turf course, a course record.
The victory earned the 5-year-old daughter of Intikhab an automatic expense-paid berth in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park as part of the "Win and You're In" series sponsored by the Breeders' Cup.
A compact field of six went to the post in the Irish Champion, led by the "big three" of Snow Fairy, Nathaniel, and St Nicholas Abbey.
The Ed Dunlop-trained Snow Fairy entered the race off a tenacious victory in the Darley Prix Romanet (Fr-I) two weeks ago. The race was just the second start of the year for Snow Fairy, who had been hampered by a tendon injury since her victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (Jpn-I) last November. Frankie Dettori was aboard for the ride, subbing for an injured Ryan Moore.
John Gosden sent out Nathaniel, who won the Coral-Eclipse (Eng-I) earlier this season before falling a nose short of Danedream in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) at the end of July. Gosden had expressed some concern earlier in the week about his colt's layoff, but regardless of his worries, Nathaniel was sent off as the co-favorite with Snow Fairy.
Aidan O'Brien sent out a pair in the Irish Champion, led by multiple group/grade I-winner St Nicholas Abbey. His other entrant was no slouch either; 3-year-old Daddy Long Legs had captured the UAE Derby (UAE-II) earlier this year, but had fallen slightly off form since his dismal trip in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The field was rounded out by John Oxx's Born To Sea and the Jim Bolger-trained Light Heavy.
Daddy Long Legs was in the race as a pacemaker and he did just that, going to the front immediately and setting a good tempo under Seamie Heffernan. The core of the runners let Daddy Long Legs do his thing and it didn't take too long before the chestnut colt had opened up by about seven lengths on the field.
William Buick had Nathaniel settled in second with Light Heavy just off of him in third. Dettori had a relaxed Snow Fairy racing in fourth, with St Nicholas Abbey tracking her in fifth. Born To Sea trailed the field.
Daddy Long Legs continued to lead the field on a merry chase through the early stages of the race. As the field swept through the turn and entered the home straight his lead had shrunk to just a couple lengths, with Nathaniel gobbling up ground with every stride.
With just over two furlongs to go, Nathaniel swept past the fading Daddy Long Legs to take the lead. Snow Fairy, full of run, easily cruised into second, with St Nicholas Abbey looming a threat on the far outside in third.
Nathaniel continued to lead but was now under a drive from Buick. Dettori pushed the button on his mare and the response was immediate as Snow Fairy overtook her rival with a furlong remaining to win by 1 1/4 lengths. St Nicholas Abbey finished third, three-quarters of a length behind Nathaniel.
Both Dettori and Dunlop were simply ecstatic after the race. Dettori told reporters, "Full credit goes to Ed and the team for getting her back after such a serious injury. She retains all her class and ability and it was just lovely to be on her again."
"Usually I don't notice these things, but I could hear the crowd really get behind her and the roar when she crossed the line," Dettori continued. "She's as popular as Kauto Star over jumps and for racing we need superstars like that. She's small but she comes with a big punch!"
When Dunlop, who also trained the great Ouija Board, was asked where this victory rated on his list of achievements, he said, "No disrespect to the others, but I think this is the best; to beat some of the best colts around and to break the track record, coming back from a major tendon injury, it doesn't get better than this."
Regarding Snow Fairy's future plans, Dunlop said, "We've always said this year we will take each race at a time after the injury she has had. She seems fine after the race, she's in the Arc, she's in the Champion Stakes-obviously Frankel is in that and that is a different level entirely."
"We'll see," he added. "I've said before I'd like to go to the Breeders' Cup, she hasn't done that, and I'd love to take her to America and maybe win in a sixth country."
Snow Fairy is owned by Cristina Patino, who races her in the name of Anamoine Limited. Snow Fairy was bred in Ireland by her owner under the name of Wildflower Overseas Holdings, Inc. She is out of Woodland Dream, by Charnwood Forest.