Mile now the target for Laurens

Danny Tudhope congratulates wheelchair-bound PJ McDonald after Laurens won the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.
Danny Tudhope congratulates wheelchair-bound PJ McDonald after Laurens won the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.
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KARL BURKE says his superstar filly Laurens will stick to a mile in future after she made all to inflict a shock defeat on Jessica Harrington’s all-conquering Alpha Centauri.

The Leyburn trainer was speaking after his stable star won Leopardstown’s prestigious Matron Stakes on a dramatic weekend of top class racing on both sides of the Irish Sea. Owned by John Dance, this was the horse’s fourth Group One victory – just shy of the five successes recorded at this elite level by Middleham’s Mark Johnston’s equally brilliant Attraction in 2004 and 2005.

Roaring Lion, winner of York's Dante Stakes and Juddmonte International, just got the better of Saxon Warrior in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Roaring Lion, winner of York's Dante Stakes and Juddmonte International, just got the better of Saxon Warrior in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Now Burke has confirmed that Laurens will stick to a mile – she failed to get a mile-and-a-half in last month’s Yorkshire Oaks – and Newmarket’s Sun Chariot Stakes is now the preferred target rather than the 10-furlong Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp.

This was a notable win for North Yorkshire jockey Danny Tudhope who was replacing the injury-sidelined PJ McDonald in the saddle – it spoke volumes about Laurens, and what she means, that McDonald, currently wheelchair-bound with foot injuries suffered in a recent fall at Newcastle, was present in the Leopardstown winner’s enclosure to congratulate the victorious rider.

“She’s come out of the race fine,” reported Burke, who completed a weekend to remember when sprinter Havana Grey won the Group One Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh yesterday under Richard Kingscote.

“We haven’t had chance to have a chat, her two options are the Sun Chariot or to go back to France, but I would think going by what John said the Sun Chariot 
is going to be the preferred option.

Kew Gardens won the St Leger under Ryan Moore.

Kew Gardens won the St Leger under Ryan Moore.

“She doesn’t quicken, she lengthens and that is why we all thought she’d stay further.

“I still think she probably wasn’t 100 per cent on the day in the Yorkshire Oaks, she was beaten a long way out, but that is behind us now and we’ll look forwards to her next race.”

Alpha Centauri appeared to falter for a step or two, and it later transpired the three-year-old had been retired with a fetlock injury.

The win of Laurens preceded an equally dramatic Irish Champions Stakes in which Roaring Lion thundered home in a tactical race under an inspired Oisin Murphy – his ninth Group One win in less than 12 months – to deny old foe Saxon Warrior who, in turn, has also been retired 
after picking up a tendon 
injury.

The first horse since Sea The Stars in 2009 to win the Eclipse, Juddmonte International and Irish Champion Stakes in the same season, Roaring Lion established himself as this year’s champion three-year-old colt.

And, in doing so, Murphy’s mount denied Saxon Warrior’s jockey Ryan Moore a big race double after his earlier win in Doncaster’s St Leger – the final Classic of 2018 – on the Aidan O’Brien-trained Kew Gardens.

Moore and O’Brien didn’t even wait on Town Moor for the traditional post-race presentation after Kew Gardens held off the lightly-raced filly Lah Ti Dar, with Yorkshire challenger Dee Ex Bee back in fourth.

However, the earlier run of Lah Ti Dar’s full brother, Too Darn Hot, provided amble compensation for trainer John Gosden, jockey Frankie Dettori and owner-breeders Andrew and Madeleine Lloyd Webber.

This two-year-old colt was an emphatic winner of the Champagne Stakes and is now favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas and Derby.