Laurens the magnificent puts Burke, Dance and McDonald in dreamland
Prix de Diane Longines (Group 1) 3yo fillies | 1m2½f
The great Alec Head is fond of saying that a horse runs and wins with its heart, and there can be little doubt Laurens must have one of the biggest of any horse in training.
Asked by PJ McDonald to take the race by the scruff of the neck, she injected no small amount of pace at the two-furlong marker before staging a heroic rearguard action to win in the most thrilling blanket finish.
Having set herself an almost impossible task by getting outpaced in the first half of the race, Musis Amica engaged overdrive down the outside to claim an improbable second, while Homerique, Happily and With You were also in there fighting to the death.
But for McDonald, owner John Dance and trainer Karl Burke, this once-in-a-lifetime filly refused to lie down and even gave her rider the impression that she was ready to go again at the line, prompting dreams of glory over a mile and a half.
Early quotes of 16-1 for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe seemed generous given that the race has fallen the way of three-year-old fillies in four of the last ten renewals.
"I just felt, because of the manner of her wins, she wasn’t getting the credit she deserved," said Burke, who was claiming a maiden Classic success on the same track Lord Shanakill had given him a first Group 1 winner nine years ago.
"She’s not an Enable that was going to destroy her field by five or six lengths, but she has great ability, a great stride, great cruising speed and she just grinds it out and does what she has to do."
Longchamp in October is now firmly under consideration, but Burke and Dance will look at a couple of targets closer to home first.
"I would say sitting here there's no reason why we won’t be lining up in the Arc, but there's at least one race in between now and then that she should be going for," said Burke.
"We’ll get her home and hopefully she recovers as quick as she did in the Saint-Alary. She's in the Irish Oaks, which is in four weeks' time, so she’ll have a week longer than the Saint-Alary to here.
"Then John and I would like to take her to the Yorkshire Oaks, which is our home race."
Laurens' great stride has often given McDonald little choice but to cut out the running, but he was delighted that Frankie Dettori and Luminate acted as the hare for the field on this occasion.
"Our filly is very uncomplicated and has proved she can win from the front," said McDonald, who was also winning his first Classic.
"However, she seems to accelerate much quicker when she has one in front of her. When she is already in front it just takes her that little bit longer to get into that top gear. When she’s following one she’s electric, and you could see today she was straight into the bridle."
McDonald's transition from jump jockey to Classic-winning Flat rider has been one of quiet excellence, and in Laurens he has the perfect foil.
"I always knew I had the ability but you need the right people around you in this game and the right horses," he said.
"I've been lucky enough in the last couple of years to get in with Karl and to meet John, and things have progressed from there."
Classic glory has arrived for Dance much earlier than he could possibly have dreamed, barely five years after he went from a local sponsor at Newcastle to dipping his toe into ownership.
"When we bought the filly this was the race we talked about, literally the day we bought her, so to actually come here and win it is incredible," said Dance, who will now be footing quite a drinks bill.
"We still haven’t got round to having a party for winning the Fillies' Mile, which we’ve been trying to arrange for the last couple of weeks. But the party just keeps getting bigger. When it does happen it’s going to be enormous."
Curragh rematch possible for Musis Amica
Mickael Barzalona can rarely have experienced such deflation early in a Group 1 as he was rowing for his life after two furlongs, Musis Amica hopelessly adrift on the drying ground.
The way she flew home gave every encouragement to step her up to a mile and a half, and the Darley Irish Oaks could also be her next assignment
"She's always been laid back and obviously softer ground would help her," said a philosophical Andre Fabre. "I'm happy with the way she finished but she's like that and you cannot change her. She could go to the Curragh."
Homerique justified being supplemented for only her third race and left trainer Francis Graffard with a mix of pride and disappointment.
"To be placed in the Diane is obviously great for the filly and we shouted her all the way home," he said. "I’m always disappointed because I wanted to win. But I'm relieved as well because it’s tough to come to a race like this with a filly who has so little experience."
Aidan O'Brien's quest for a first Chantilly Classic continues after Happily took some time to find daylight under Ryan Moore before rallying to be fourth, beaten a neck, a nose and a head.
"Happily ran well, we're happy with her," said O'Brien. "She picked up well, and she has a lot of options."
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