Sensational Snow Fairy wins Irish Champion
Report: Leopardstown, Saturday
Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes (Group 1) 3yo+, 1m2f
THE amazing Snow Fairy added another incredible chapter to what is one of racing's great rags-to-riches stories as she defeated Nathaniel and St Nicholas Abbey to win the Irish Champion Stakes.
Bought back for just €1,800 by her owner-breeder Cristina Patino after she'd failed to raise any interest at the sales back in 2008, Snow Fairy had won six Group 1s before Saturday's race, four of them outside the British Isles. Three of those came in East Asia, and the fourth at Deauville last month after nine months off the track with a tendon injury.
Yet for all her remarkable achievements overseas, she had not triumphed in Britain or Ireland since her three-year-old season two years ago, and she faced a formidable field of five rivals at Leopardstown.
There was Nathaniel, the 2011 King George and 2012 Coral-Eclipse winner, and St Nicholas Abbey, the reigning Breeders' Cup Turf champion and winner of the last two runnings of the Coronation Cup. In supporting roles were Born To Sea and Light Heavy, second and third in the Irish Derby, and the pacemaker Daddy Long Legs.
The pacemaker did his job properly, setting a good clip up front and stretching seven or eight lengths clear by the halfway stage.
He was easily reeled in by Nathaniel, who led the chasing group and took over from Daddy Long Legs at the entrance to the straight.
It was at that point, however, that Snow Fairy's quality began to show. With Frankie Dettori, deputising for the injured Ryan Moore, sitting perfectly still atop the smooth-travelling mare, Nathaniel's lead quickly diminished.
And then she came and won it as easy as you like, gliding past Nathaniel in the final half furlong and coasting along to the post.
Nathaniel came home second and St Nicholas Abbey third, but the aftermath was all about the queen of Leopardstown, Snow Fairy.
Trainer Ed Dunlop said: "To beat some of the best colts around and to take the track record after having a tendon injury, this has to be her best performance."
Dunlop did not commit to a next target, but should Snow Fairy head for the Arc she will do so an 8-1 chance (from 10-1) with Paddy Power.
"Looking ahead we'll take it one step at a time," said Dunlop. "She's in the Champion Stakes and the Arc and I'd love to take her to the Breeders' Cup."
Frankie Dettori, winning his fifth Irish Champion Stakes, said: "Full credit goes to Ed and the team for getting her back after such a serious injury. She retains all her class and ability and it was just lovely to be on her again.
"I spoke to Ryan Moore this morning, he said to be patient, she will quicken when you ask her to. I didn't want to be the meat in the sandwich and go after Nathaniel too early, but she made it look very easy."