The Secret of Roan Inish was one of the more acclaimed film releases of 1994, drawing on Irish legend to present a captivating story. But in the Thoroughbred world, Roan Inish is a secret no more, and has just written a dramatic chapter in her own story by running down Moment to Majesty for a head victory in the Woodbine Oaks presented by Budweiser Stakes (VIDEO) on June 13.
Trained by Carolyn Costigan for owner-breeder Robert Costigan (her father), Roan Inish had won only one of her previous six starts but that win was in the 2009 Princess Elizabeth Stakes over 8.5 furlongs at Woodbine. The filly also ran second in the Glorious Song Stakes over seven furlongs at 2 and the Fury Stakes over the same trip at 3, both at Woodbine, so she clearly has far more affinity for the Polytrack at Woodbine than the turf in Ireland, where she made her first three career starts. Given that seven furlongs seems a bit short for her, she would also appear to have an affinity for distance, which is one reason why she is now being considered for a start in the 10-furlong Queen’s Plate against the colts.
Roan Inish comes by stamina quite honestly, though her failure to show more of a liking for grass—at least under less than firm conditions, since her starts in Ireland were all over courses rated “good” to “soft”—is a little puzzling. Her dam,Inish Glora, won the 2003 Canadian Handicap (Can-IIT) and the 2004 Nassau Handicap (Can-IIIT) on the grass at Woodbine, setting a new course record of 1:43.76 for about nine furlongs in the former. She was named Canada’s champion turf female in 2003 and 2004.
Inish Glora is by Regal Classic, a son of perennial Canadian leading sire Vice Regent and the great Canadian broodmare No Class. Champion juvenile male in Canada in 1987, Regal Classic trained on well enough to capture the second jewel of the 1988 Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes. While not the equal of either parent in the paddocks, he was a useful sire, getting 47 stakes winners including 1998 Canadian champion turf mare Colorful Vices, 2000 Canadian champion sprinter and champion older horse One Way Love, Australian group I winner Regal Roller, and Canadian Classic winners Stephanotis (1996 Prince of Wales Stakes) and Regal Discovery (1995 Queen’s Plate).
Inish Glora was the only stakes winner produced from stakes-placed Star Guest, a daughter of Assert. Winner of the 1982 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby, Fr-I) and Irish Sweeps Derby (Ire-I) Assert had no problems staying 12 furlongs and was a fairly useful sire of horses with a taste for grass and a bit of distance. By Be My Guest out of Irish Bird, by *Sea-Bird, Assert is a half brother to two other European Classic winners in Bikala (1981 Prix du Jockey Club) and Eurobird (1987 Jefferson Smurfit Memorial Irish St. Leger, Ire-I).
Violet, the dam of Star Guest, had little to recommend her as a racer, finishing unplaced in her only start. She was well enough bred, however, being by the good racer and sire Chieftain out of Viennese Rose, a full sister to Vaguely Noble.
One of the finest European racers of the post World War II-era, Vaguely Noble earned a rare Timeform rating of 140 after winning the Prix de Guiche, Prix de Chantilly, Prix du Lys, and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe—the latter at the expense of the brilliant Derby Stakes winner, Sir Ivor. While he stood in Kentucky, most of his best offspring made their reputations either in Europe or on the grass in America, and he proved a solid influence for stamina. He was leading sire in England in 1973 and 1974, thanks in no small part to the efforts of his great daughter Dahlia, and was also leading broodmare sire in 1982.
Roan Inish is by Elusive Quality, once again demonstrating his ability to get horses that stay better than himself when mated to mares with a bit of stoutness in their backgrounds. The Darley stallion is having a good year, with 12 stakes winners to his credit so far in 2010. The leader of the group is, of course, multiple grade I winner Quality Road , who is the pro tem leader of the older male division following his win in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I). The other notable runner in the group is Elusive Pimpernel, who won the Racing Post Breezeupbonus.com Craven Stakes (Eng-III) on April 15 but was unable to deliver as the second choice in the StanJames.com Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) on May 1 and has not raced since.
On pedigree, Roan Inish seems likely to keep improving with age, given that neither her sire nor her dam reached peak form before age 5. The question now is whether continued maturation and an extra furlong will be just what she needs to take on the boys and, perhaps, take the next step towards becoming a Canadian legend.