Donn's Articles » Paddington v Tahiyra

Paddington v Tahiyra

It was on the last Saturday in May that Paddington won the Irish 2000 Guineas.  He wasn’t favourite, but he won like a favourite should win.  Ryan Moore always looked happy on his back, swinging away in the slipstream of the leader early on.  It took him a couple of strides to master Hi Royal, but it always looked like he would.  Paddington hit the front just inside the furlong marker, and he stretched away to win by two lengths.

The following day at The Curragh, Tahiyra won the Irish 1000 Guineas.  Tahiyra was different, because Tahiyra was favourite, fully expected.  Her draw in stall one could have made things tricky, but Chris Hayes had the wherewithal and the horse to move into the fleeting gap that developed on the outside of the leader Meditate as they raced just inside the two-furlong pole.  Once in that gap, the result was almost a given.  Tahiyra showed her trademark turn of foot inside the final furlong and scorched away to win by a length and a half.

The two performances were similar.  Both horses proved their absolute superiority over some of the most talented contemporaries of their respective genders over the Classic distance of a mile.  Tahiyra clocked a slightly faster time, but that was attributable more to the faster pace that they went through the early throes of the fillies’ race than it was to any provable sense of superiority.  The primary objective in any horse race is to win that horse race, not to clock the fastest time that you can clock and, in that respect, both horses were awarded top marks.

Their respective paths to The Curragh on Irish Guineas weekend were quite different.  Tahiyra, a half-sister to Tarnawa, winner of the Prix Vermeille and the Prix de l’Opera and the Breeders’ Cup Turf, was unbeaten as a two-year-old.  Dermot Weld’s filly won her maiden on her racecourse debut last year and followed up by winning the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes last September on her second and final run as a juvenile.  On her debut this season, she ran a massive race in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, going down by just a half a length to Mawj.  That was the first time and only time to date that she has tasted defeat.  At The Curragh on Irish 1000 Guineas day, she washed that taste out of her mouth.

Paddington was a slower burn.  He was beaten on his racecourse debut last year, at Ascot in September, before coming back to The Curragh last October and winning and end-of-season maiden by five lengths.

Unusually, Aidan O’Brien’s colt started off in a handicap this season.  He went to Naas in March and won the Madrid Handicap off a rating of 97, before returning to The Curragh and winning the Listed Tetrarch Stakes.  It was an unusual path for a horse who would go on to win the Irish 2000 Guineas – it is not in keeping with the normal course of events that a European Classic winner goes anywhere near a handicap – but it is not without precedent either.  The Kevin Prendergast-trained Awtaad trod the exact same path through the early paces of the 2016 season before he won the Irish 2000 Guineas.

Paddington and Tahiyra share the same sire.  Siyouni was a Group 1 winner at two, who didn’t win at three and who didn’t race at four.  He was a high-class racehorse, but he has gone miles beyond even the most optimistic expectations as a stallion.  He could have been gelded and sent to Hong Kong at the end of his racing career, but instead he was syndicated as a stallion, standing for just €7,000 in his initial season.

Siyouni confirmed his standing as a top stallion even before Paddington and Tahiyra came along, being responsible, as he is, for St Mark’s Basilica and Sottsass and Laurens and Al Hakeem, and more.  And now, all going well this week, his best colt of 2020 and his best filly of 2020 are set to meet in a showdown on Qipco British Champions’ Day next Saturday at Ascot.

They have both been there before.  They both went to Royal Ascot in June and they both won.  Paddington won the Group 1 mile race for three-year-old colts, the St James’s Palace Stakes, while Tahiyra won the Coronation Stakes, the Group 1 mile race for three-year-old fillies.  This time, Paddington’s time was faster, even though the ground for his race on the Tuesday was slower than the ground was for Tahiyra’s race on Friday.  Again, though, it was down to pace.  They crawled through the early stages of the Coronation Stakes.

After Royal Ascot, their paths diverged.  Paddington stepped up in trip and out of his own age group and won the Eclipse, before dropping back in trip again and beating his elders once more on soft ground in the Sussex Stakes.  He was beaten in the Juddmonte International in August at York, but he probably wasn’t at his best that day, just three weeks after that gruelling encounter on soft ground in the Sussex Stakes.  York was eight weeks ago now.  He should be ready to roll again in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

Tahiyra should be ready to roll again too.  The Aga Khan’s filly has run just once since Royal Ascot, she took on her elders in the Matron Stakes on Irish Champions’ Weekend at Leopardstown last month, and she beat them well.  She hasn’t taken on the colts yet but hopefully she will take that step on Saturday.  It could be the clash of the season.

© The Sunday Times, 15th October 2023