Things We Learned » Catcher on a high

Catcher on a high

Star Catcher was an impressive winner of the Kerrygold Irish Oaks at The Curragh on Saturday.  True, she got the best ride, but it is difficult to argue that she was not the best filly in the race on the day.

Her fast closing sectional tells you that Frankie Dettori engineered an easy lead for himself, and Fleeting did well to come from fifth place, just over three lengths behind the winner passing the three-furlong marker, to challenge John Gosden’s filly deep inside the final furlong.  However, the runner-up wasn’t getting any closer to the winner inside the final 50 yards, and it is probable that, if Fleeting had found the half-length by which she was beaten, Star Catcher would have found a little more.

It will be fascinating to see what programme John Gosden maps out for Anthony Oppenheimer’s filly now.  She is a seriously progressive filly.  She has run in just five races now, and she has progressed with every one of them. 

Sixth in a maiden at Chelmsford on her racecourse debut in December, her only run at two, she won her maiden at Newbury in April on her three-year-old debut.  She finished a close-up third behind Queen’s Power in one of the listed races at Newbury that last year’s Irish Oaks winner, the sadly ill-fated Sea Of Class, won before stepping up from that and winning the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.  And Saturday’s win was another step forward.

There was a sense that she had the run of the race in the Ribblesdale as well.  That she got first run on Fleeting.  Which is why there was a legitimate betting angle to Fleeting on Saturday at a bigger price.  However, the fact remains that the two fillies have met twice now, and that the score is two-nil to Star Catcher.

The Sea The Stars filly may be under-rated now.  Her potential for further progression may be under-rated. 

If John Gosden didn’t have a yard full of top class middle-distance fillies, Star Catcher’s programme now would probably be fairly straightforward: Yorkshire Oaks and then, if she proved herself to be good enough, Arc de Triomphe.  The Sea Of Class route.  She is surely a 12-furlong filly, so it is unlikely that she would be a Nassau Stakes filly or a Prix de l’Opera filly.

She is a big price for the Arc, as big as 33/1, and she is not even quoted in some lists, but it may be that she will progress sufficiently to emerge as a genuine Arc contender.  Don’t forget, eight of the last 11 Arc winners were fillies, and four of them were three-year-old fillies.

Champions all

One of the best pieces of news to emerge this week was that Pat Smullen will ride in his Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland race at The Curragh in September.  It will be run after the Comer Group International Irish St Leger on the second and final day of Irish Champions Weekend. 

That will be some crescendo.

If Smullen was intent on cruising to an easy victory in the race, however, he hasn’t gone about it the right way.  He has assembled a Who’s Who of jockeys.  Probably the most talented and most decorated group of riders that has ever been assembled for one race.  Champions all.

There’s Pat Smullen himself for starters, nine-time champion jockey.  And there’s AP McCoy (20) and Ruby Walsh (12) and Charlie Swan (9) and Ted Durcan (7) and Kieren Fallon (6) and Johnny Murtagh (5) and Richard Hughes (3) and Paul Carberry (2) and Joseph O’Brien (2). 

You’d travel a long way to see this one.

Ebor is a different race now

The Ebor weights came out during the week and, no surprises, it’s going to be a different type of race to all the Ebors that have gone before.

The million-pound thing is a game-changer.  The classy horses are entered.  Irish Derby winner Latrobe and Doncaster Cup winner Thomas Hobson and Princess of Wales’s Stakes winner Communique. 

Just shows you how far the Ebor has come in the last decade.  Ten years ago, the race was worth £130,851 to the winner, and the Willie Mullins-trained Sesenta won it under the 5lb-claiming Gary Carroll.  Sesenta raced off a handicap rating of 94.  Top weight in that race was Warringah, who raced off a handicap rating of 105.

Last year, when it was a £500,000 race, of which the winner got £311,250, the top weight was Weekender who had a handicap rating of 112, so 7lb higher than Warringah’s rating 10 years ago.  Bottom weight was Mountain Bell, who raced off a mark of 102.  There was only 10lb between top weight and bottom weight, and Sesenta’s mark of 94 was 8lb shy of what was required to get into the race.

This year, the highest-rated entry is Communique, who has a rating of 118, so 6lb higher than last year’s top weight.  Actually, there are eight entries who have a rating equal to or greater than last year’s highest-rated runner. 

It remains to be seen how the entries will translate into declarations and runners, but you suspect that a handicap rating of 105, the top rating of 10 years ago, may be just about high enough to get you into the race. 

Fillies match

Match the John Gosden-trained filly with the correct race(s). 

(The first one is done for you.)



1.     Enable

2.     Anapurna

3.     Mehdaayih

4.     Star Catcher

5.     Lah Ti Dar

6.     Coronet

7.     Enbihaar



a)    King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes

b)   Nassau Stakes

c)    Lillie Langtry Stakes

d)   Yorkshire Oaks

e)    Juddmonte International

f)     St Leger

g)    Irish St Leger

h)   Prix de l’Opera

i)     Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

j)     British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes



1. (a) and (i) and maybe (d) or (e), you never know

Quiz time

What do Davy Russell, Paul Townend, Robbie Power and Denis O’Regan have in common?

(Clue: It’s a Galway thing.)

© The Irish Field, 27th July 2019