Mother of God! Frankie Dettori lands 1,000 Guineas on O'Brien's Mother Earth
There was little surprise Aidan O'Brien was on the mark again in the Qipco 1,000 Guineas, but it was the proven experience of Mother Earth under 50-year-old Frankie Dettori rather than the raw potential of ante-post favourite Santa Barbara that proved the decisive factor behind the trainer's seventh win in the Classic.
It may not have had viewers on the edge of their seats like Sunday night's final episode of Line Of Duty and it may not have been an exceptional 1,000 Guineas, with a field of 11 the smallest line-up since ten went to post in 1990, but few have been more eagerly anticipated thanks to the hyperbole surrounding Santa Barbara.
Once-raced when successful in a Curragh maiden last September, she had been the name emanating from Ballydoyle since the start of spring thanks to her impressive home work.
Only last week O'Brien described the way she had been "dominating" those around her on the gallops, but thrust into the Classic cauldron on just her second start she came up short in fourth behind her vastly more experienced stablemate.
Mother Earth, with eight runs under her girth at two, followed the blueprint of O'Brien's past 1,000 Guineas winners. The likes of Love and Hermosa had both run seven times as a juvenile before winning the race, while Homecoming Queen triumphed in 2012 having been seen on the racecourse 11 times as a two-year-old.
Crucially, Mother Earth had visited the Rowley Mile before, finishing third when carrying the wrong saddlecloth and rider in a controversial Fillies' Mile last October. That experience allowed Dettori, the second fiftysomething jockey in two days to win a Newmarket Classic after 54-year-old Kevin Manning's 2,000 Guineas victory on Poetic Flare on Saturday, to fearlessly attack the famous Dip between the final two furlongs, and by the time he and Mother Earth hit the rising ground the race was theirs to lose.
At the line they had a length to spare over gutsy runner-up Saffron Beach, with a neck back to Fev Rover in third and Santa Barbara far from disgraced a further nose away in fourth.
"She's a very good filly and always was," said O'Brien of the winner. "It was unfair to run Santa Barbara, but we had to come – with a view to coming back over for the Oaks she had to run.
"Ryan Moore [rider of Santa Barbara] said he'd have liked to have waited longer, but he saw Frankie coming down his outside and he had to come then, and she was just green in the Dip. But after having had just one easy win, it was a great run.
"Frankie's filly is very consistent. She had a great run in America last time out last year. She was very professional. She relaxed, quickened and did everything very well. It was great to have Frankie there – he's an unbelievable rider."
Victory made O'Brien the first trainer since George Lambton in 1918 to win the 1,000 Guineas in three consecutive years, and proved a welcome fillip for his Ballydoyle yard after he had seen his three 2,000 Guineas contenders fail to make an impact on Saturday.
While Santa Barbara is heading for a step up in trip in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom next month, Mother Earth will be sticking at a mile and will bid for a Guineas double at the Curragh on May 23.
"Santa Barbara was always going to go to the Oaks and Mother Earth was always going to go for the Irish Guineas," said O'Brien.
"We felt by coming here Santa Barbara would learn as much as she would for three runs, but it was a risk doing it. She's classy and would have learned a lot, and she has plenty of time to get over it."
Santa Barbara remains favourite for the Oaks despite her defeat, although she was eased to 4-1 (from 11-4) with Ladbrokes.
Instead of a buoyant Bank Holiday weekend crowd, only a smattering of owners, trainers and stable staff were allowed at the track, but Dettori's screams of delight could be heard across the sprawling Rowley Mile as he celebrated a landmark victory of his own.
"It's my 20th [British] Classic, so I'm delighted to do it in my own town, Newmarket," said Dettori.
"Aidan gave me a lot of confidence. He told me to forget about Santa Barbara and ride my own race. He told me to ride her cold and said she'd come home good. I followed Ryan and kicked at the top of the hill because I knew she was going to come home good. She did and I was able to enjoy it. She's not very big, but she's got a big engine."
He added: "I love it! I was a bit deflated with Battleground in the 2,000 Guineas, but when you're riding in a Classic for Coolmore you've got a live chance even on the second or third string. I didn't have the pressure to ride the favourite, and had a very willing partner."
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