09/13/2014 3:41PM

The Grey Gatsby takes Irish Champion Stakes


The Grey Gatsby flew home under Ryan Moore to nail the heavily favored Australia on the wire in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes on Saturday at Leopardstown.

Australia had beaten The Grey Gatsby by two lengths Aug. 20 in the Juddmonte International Stakes, but after being caught very wide on the turn and making a somewhat early bid into a fast pace, Australia and Joseph O’Brien could not stave off a late challenge from fellow 3-year-old The Grey Gatsby, who rallied from last.

The Irish Champion, worth about $786,000, is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race for the BC Turf, but The Grey Gatsby’s trainer, Kevin Ryan, didn’t mention that race as a possible goal for the horse. And while The Grey Gatsby won the French Derby this year, neither will he be pointed for the Prix de l’Arc d’Triomphe, according to his trainer. The Champion Stakes at Ascot is an autumn goal, and a late-winter trip to the Dubai Duty Free also is possible.

There were two pacemakers in the Irish Champion, run over 1 1/4 miles on good turf: Alkasser was showing the way for Mukhadram, while Kingfisher was in as a rabbit for Australia, but they set the race up for The Grey Gatsby.

:: Breeders’ Cup Challenge: Results, replays, charts, and more

The pace appeared to be quick from the start, and as the field went around the race’s one major left-handed bend, O’Brien on Australia found himself parked five or six paths out into the middle of the course. O’Brien eased back behind Al Kazeem, racing only in front of The Grey Gatsby while losing slightly less ground, but then wound up his mount with about three furlongs still left to race.

Australia, the English Derby winner, responded with a quick turn of foot, rushing up to take the lead with slightly less than a quarter-mile to run, but as he turned into the homestretch, Moore played his hand on The Grey Gatsby, who ranged up to engage Australia inside the final furlong. The pair ran as a team for several strides, but The Grey Gatsby had the momentum and edged clear just before the finish to win by a neck.

The top two were well clear of the rest, with Trading Leather 4 1/2 lengths back in third. Mukhadram was fourth and Al Kazeen fifth, with the pacemakers bringing up the rear. The winning time was 2:03.18.

The Grey Gatsby, an Irish-bred by Mastercraftsman, won for the fourth time in 11 starts while capturing his second Group 1.

Fiesolana upsets Matron

The 5-year-old Fiesolana scored her first Group 1 win, and the first for trainer Willie McCreery, by outfinishing Rizeena to win the Matron Stakes on the Irish Champion undercard. Tapestry, so impressive in beating Taghrooda last out in the Yorkshire Oaks, came up empty in the stretch and finished ninth.

The Matron was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In race linked to the BC Filly and Mare Turf. Fiesolana will be pointed for the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp for her next start and might then be retired as a broodmare.

Fiesolana, ridden by Billy Lee, knifed between rivals deep in the homestretch to beat Rizeena to the line by a half-length. Rizeena finished three-quarters of a length in front of Tobann for third.

John F. Kennedy romps for O’Brien

John F. Kennedy galloped home a 3 1/4-length winner over Tombelaine in the Group 3 Juvenile Turf Stakes, a BC Win and You’re In race linked to the Juvenile Turf.

Making his third start for trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Joseph O’Brien, the odds-on John F. Kennedy scored his second straight romping victory after finishing second in his career debut. By Galileo and out of Rumplestiltskin, John F. Kennedy appears to be among Coolmore’s top 2-year-old prospects and even before Saturday’s win had stirred betting interest in ante-post markets for 2015 classic races.

Free Eagle impresses in comeback

Unraced since finishing second to Australia one year ago, the Dermot Weld-trained Free Eagle won the Group 3 Enterprise Stakes over 1 1/4 miles by seven lengths. The son of High Chaparral looked like a colt of Group 1 quality and is likely to be aimed at a more significant target this fall.