Deceased South African champion, and Triple Crown winner, Horse Chestnut (Fort Wood) confirmed his status as a top-class broodmare sire when Star Catcher justified her place as 7/4 favourite for the £550,000 Gr1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes with a gritty victory at Ascot on Saturday.
The winner bred by Hascombe And Valiant Studs, and is a daughter of Sea The Stars out of Horse Chestnut mare Lynnwood Chase.
Star Catcher’s triumph was quick consolation for trainer John Gosden and jockey Frankie Dettori who were beaten by the narrowest margin of a nose in the preceding race, the G2 QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, when Stradivarius lost out to Kew Gardens.
Thirty-five minutes later they were the narrow winners as Star Catcher beat Delphinia (20/1) and Sun Maiden (25/1) by a short head and one length. Gosden’s other runner, Oaks winner Anapurna, finished 11th of the 12 runners after holding a good early position.
Star Catcher’s owner/breeder Anthony Oppenheimer, who also raced and bred Derby winner Golden Horn, said his filly would remain in training next year, and added: “We’re all thrilled. We were very worried about the ground before the race and didn’t think she would go in it, but she has a lot of courage and really pulled on that. It was fantastic effort by her, the trainer and the jockey.”
Gosden said: “It was extraordinary to see three fillies fighting it out together, but she was determined to get her head in front and you cannot doubt her courage. She’s a wonderful filly and now she can have a winter off.
“She won the Prix Vermeille on fast ground, she won in Ireland on quick ground and now she’s won on heavy. The inner track is better than the outer track, but we’ve had a lot of rain. It’s a gorgeous day and these wonderful horses are running, and so far we’ve had three incredible races.
For Frankie Dettori, in a perfect world it would have happened on Enable at Longchamp 13 days earlier, but he did not have long to wait for his 250th Gr 1 winner and Star Catcher, on whom he has also won an Irish Oaks and a Prix Vermeille, was not a bad substitute.
He said: “Star Catcher has never stopped improving but once Delphinia couldn’t get away from her she found her second wind and managed to get her head in front in the last 100 yards. It was hard work in the straight but the last shower made a big difference as it’s borderline heavy, and she doesn’t mind it.
“I I am still a bit sour about Stradivarius, but the ground is a lot worse than we thought. I am pleased this filly won. Like you said, from crying to smiling in half an hour! She’s lovely, she’s tough, and I think she is going to stay in training. She is a wonderful filly and provided me with my 250th Gr1. I love her.”
Star Catcher was Dettori’s 17th Gr1 winner in a stellar year.
Magical stamped her class on the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Aidan O’Brien’s ultra-consistent four-year-old won the Fillies And Mares Stakes on the corresponding card 12 months ago, since when she has trebled her Group One tally with victories in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Irish Champion Stakes.
During the same period she has finished second to old foe Enable in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the Coral-Eclipse and the Yorkshire Oaks, as well as filling the runner-up spot behind Crystal Ocean at Royal Ascot and finishing fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Turning out less than a fortnight after her latest appearance in Paris, there might have been doubts about whether Magical would be able to produce her brilliant best in the testing conditions, but she got the job done in the hands of Donnacha O’Brien.
The even-money favourite travelled powerfully on the heels of the pace-setting Regal Reality for much of the 10-furlong contest before being nudged to the front in the straight.
Confirmed mud-lover Addeybb emerged as the most serious danger, but try as he might, he could never quite get on terms with Magical, who found enough for pressure to emerge victorious by three-quarters of a length.
Japanese mare Deirdre ran a fine race to finish third, with the lightly-raced Fox Tal also emerging with credit in fourth.
O’Brien – remarkably winning the race for the first time – said: “She is just incredible, but she is classy as well. A mile and a half probably stretches her, although she has won over that a mile and a quarter is really her.
“She’s by Galileo which makes her special, they don’t know when to stop. They never hold a grudge and mentally they are unbelievable. She is the most unbelievable mare I’ve seen.
“What can you say about her? She is the ultimate racehorse, that is what she is. She is incredible. It looks like she is still progressing, which is amazing.
“We would love to keep her in training, but the lads will make a decision. They have to decide whether they want to go to the Breeders’ Cup or not, and that would be the next one if they decide they want to go.
“Found was an unbelievable mare and you can definitely compare them well. If she goes to the Breeders’ Cup, she would go to the Filly & Mare Turf.”
William Haggas, trainer of Addeybb, said: “Hats off to that filly (Magical). She’s better than him.”