Siskin had to draw on all his class and guts to run out the popular winner of a dramatic renewal of the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Friday.
Siskin was warmly fancied to hand trainer Ger Lyons a first Classic success, ultimately going off as the 2/1 favourite in light of an unbeaten four-race juvenile campaign that had culminated with a victory in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes over 6f. Nevertheless, he still lined up for his seasonal debut with something to prove, not least his ability to stay a mile. A nasty stalls incident ahead of the Middle Park Stakes last September, which had necessitated Siskin’s withdrawal from the Newmarket Group 1, also remained fresh in the memory.
As a result, Siskin was loaded last in the 11-strong field, precautions which paid dividends as the colt broke smoothly under Colin Keane. The start turned out to be the least of his issues, however. Anchored down on the inner by Keane, it soon became apparent that Siskin would struggle to find racing room. The colt was still crowded as the Ballydoyle first string Lope Y Fernandez swept down the outer but in turn, that move also presented Siskin with a gap with which to work through. Keane was quick to take advantage and Siskin answered every call, producing his trademark turn of foot to run down Lope Y Fernandez and win impressively by close to two lengths.
The lightly raced Vatican City, a brother to the Irish Guineas winners Gleneagles and Marvellous, stayed on in eye-catching style to run second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Lope Y Fernandez in third.
“We knew this was going to happen,” said Lyons, alluding to the crowded later stages of the race. “We knew that if for any reason [from that draw] we didn’t go forward, we would be in a dangerous predicament. What makes the good lads great and the good horse better than the ordinary horses is that they’re able to get out of those scenarios, and that’s what they did today.
“The horse is good – he’s a Group 1 winner at two, he’s now a Group 1 winner at three. We knew he’d be better on fast ground. In the last month, we became very confident that he’d get the trip. He’s been a very easy horse to train, he’s push button. The team have been fantastic during lockdown and we’ve had a great pre-season training with him.
“We have loads of options going forward and we’ll to talk the team about that. We were never going to Ascot because backing the horse up isn’t the right thing to do. More than likely it will be the Sussex Stakes.”
Juddmonte homebred Siskin is from the final American-bred crop of his sire First Defence. The son of Unbridled’s Song, another Juddmonte homebred who was trained by Bobby Frankel to win the Grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga, was sold to stand in Saudi Arabia in late 2016 and Siskin is one of just 26 foals from that eighth $7,500 crop. As those figures imply, First Defence has not been a terribly successful stallion but he has had his moments for Juddmonte, notably as the sire of their Grade 1 winners Close Hatches (a close relation to Siskin) and Antonoe.
Unsurprisingly for a Juddmonte homebred, Siskin boasts a rich female family.
He is the second foal out of Bird Flown, a 7f winner as a two-year-old at Clairefontaine for Andre Fabre. The daughter of Oasis Dream is a half-sister to Listed winner Barsanti and to the dam of Close Hatches, herself the dam of Grade 2 winner Tacitus, a top American three-year-old for Juddmonte last year.
They are out of the Listed-placed Silver Star, a sister to champion two-year-old Xaar. Silver Star is also a daughter of blue hen Monroe, thereby making her not only a relation to Cityscape, Bated Breath and last year’s St Leger hero Logician but also a member of the mighty Best In Show family.
Bird Flown also has a two-year-old filly by Flintshire named Talacre and a yearling filly by Noble Mission.