Zhang Yuesheng celebrated a Classic milestone in European racing on Saturday as his Magical Lagoon backed up her win in the Ribblesdale Stakes by justifying favouritism in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh.
In a thrilling finish, the Jessica Harrington-trained filly answered every call from jockey Shane Foley to hold off the challenge of the Ballydoyle filly Toy to score by a neck and lead home a one-two for the late Coolmore phenomenon Galileo. It was an outcome that marked a triumph of sorts for Coolmore since they also bred the first two home, although in a relatively rare move by the operation – especially with regards to a well-bred Galileo filly – Magical Lagoon was sold as a Tattersalls October Book 1 yearling for 305,000gns to BBA Ireland agent Michael Donohoe, acting on behalf of Zhang Yuesheng’s Yulong Investments.
The race lost much of its lustre with the late withdrawal of narrow Oaks runner-up Emily Upjohn, who was unable to travel over due to flight problems. However, a battling victory in the Ribblesdale Stakes last month suggested that Magical Lagoon was a filly on the up, a view most definitely held by her trainer.
“We weren’t really worried about what turned up against us,” Jessica Harrington told Racing TV. “It was a shame that Emily Upjohn couldn’t run, it was sad for connections as she would have made a real good race of it. And when she came out, that was when the pressure came on.
“It’s fantastic to win a Group 1, and to do it in a Classic is even better. I’m thrilled. The race more or less panned out how we thought it would. She was always going to go forward and Shane said that he had to commit earlier than he thought he would, but she keeps finding and finding.
“She’s in the Yorkshire Oaks and I imagine that would be her next step.”
Foley added: “I committed from my draw in eight to get a position and she jumped well and I was able to dictate matters a little bit. Billy Lee’s filly [eventual fifth Show Of Stars] stopped sooner than I anticipated and I had to commit. I could see Ryan [Moore] waiting to make his challenge [on Toy] but my filly stuck her head down – she’s very straightforward and loves a battle. It worked out well.
“It’s what we get up for every morning, to ride good horses, and if she stayed in training next year, that would be massive.”
Toy stepped up significantly in second to become the sixth horse out of her dam You’resothrilling to win or run placed in an European Classic. It was almost three lengths back to the third Cairde Go Deo, herself half-a-length in front of the fourth Emily Dickinson.
Magical Lagoon becomes the 96th Group 1 winner for Galileo, who died last July at the age of 23, and his third winner of the Irish Oaks following Great Heavens and Seventh Heaven. She was bred by Coolmore out of Night Lagoon, a Group 3-winning daughter of Lagunas whose previous progeny are headed by the runaway 2013 King George winner Novellist.