The Niarchos family's Alpha Centauri pulled an upset to give trainer Jessica Harrington her first classic win when she came home strongly from off the pace to land the May 27 Tattersalls Irish One Thousand Guineas (G1) at the Curragh.
The daughter of Mastercraftsman returned to form after a down-the-field effort in the Ballylinch Stud Priory Belle One Thousand Guineas Trial Stakes (G3) over seven furlongs at Leopardstown to begin her 2018 campaign. She collared frontrunner Could It Be Love inside the final furlong under jockey Colm O'Donoghue and went on to score by 1 3/4 lengths.
Happily, a heavy favorite to give trainer Aidan O'Brien a record eighth win in the Guineas, finished another three-quarters of a length back.
The homebred Alpha Centauri stopped the clock in a final time of 1:38.71 for the mile test on a track rated good.
Harrington, who is best known for her exploits training jumpers, was understandably thrilled with the maiden classic success.
"It's a fantastic result. A dream come true," she said. "Our first classic win after being placed in a few of them over the years. I'd put today on a par with winning the (Timico) Cheltenham Gold Cup (one of jump racing's premier prizes) with Sizing John (last year).
"Today is the first time since Alpha Centauri ran second in the Albany (Stakes, G3) at Royal Ascot that she got fast ground, and that would seem to be the key to her. She's a lovely filly and a very big one."
Last year's winner, Winter, went on to land the Coronation Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot, which takes place next month.
"We'll let the dust settle, but I'd imagine the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot will be her next race," Harrington said.
Longshot Could It Be Love—a half sister to champion 2-year-old and top sire Uncle Mo and another trained by O'Brien—was allowed plenty of rope in front, and for a time it seemed O'Brien's son and jockey Donnacha O'Brien had judged things to perfection on the War Front filly. She ultimately had no answer when the winner swept by.
Happily, who also finished third in the QIPCO One Thousand Guineas (G1) at Newmarket this month, closed well late but did not have the pace to mount a serious challenge.
O'Brien was far from disheartened with the result.
"We're delighted with the runs. Could It Be Love ran very well, and we thought she would," he said. "She's a filly that could go back to the Jersey (at Royal Ascot) or something like that as she has plenty of pace. She's a big, strong traveler. Happily ran a very good race, and the plan with her was always to step up. She might go to the French Oaks next. It was always going to be a step up in trip after this."
Godolphin's Soliloquy, a daughter of Dubawi, finished 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth.