Key quotes as challengers gather against Guineas winner Mother Earth in Matron
Saturday: 1.40 Leopardstown
Coolmore America "Justify" Matron Stakes (Group 1) | 1m | 3yo+ | RTE2/RTV
Mother Earth is the standard-bearer in a good renewal. Winner of the 1,000 Guineas, she has maintained a high level of form all season and notched her second Group 1 win of the campaign when winning the Prix Rothschild at Deauville last month.
If successful, Mother Earth would become Aidan O'Brien's fourth Matron winner, following on from Hydrangea (2017), Alice Springs (2016) and Lillie Langtry (2010).
She may well be the ace in the pack but Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Empress Josephine should not be underestimated, for all that her chances would be bolstered by soft ground.
No Speak Alexander, who got no luck in running behind Mother Earth in France, is another who would prefer softer going.
Of the remaining three-year-olds, Shale showed some of her old spark at the Curragh last time while outstanding juvenile Pretty Gorgeous needs a revival.
Champers Elysees was riding the crest of a wave when winning this last year but seems to have plenty on her plate for her repeat bid.
She will do well to reverse the form with Acanella, who had the Johnny Murtagh-trained four-year-old held at the Curragh last time, and the most interesting older filly could be Epona Plays.
If she can get away well from stall ten then she'll be dangerous let loose on the front end under Billy Lee, who famously guided Fiesolana to victory for Willie McCreery in this race back in 2014.
Lee has committed to Epona Plays over Pearls Galore but the Paddy Twomey-trained filly should not be underestimated, especially off the back of a hugely impressive Fairy Bridge win. She has rock-solid claims for a yard that doesn't do tilting at windmills.
What they say
Willie McCreery, trainer of Epona Plays
It's going to be hard to beat Mother Earth and we're drawn a bit wide but coming back in trip should suit. The more juice in the ground the better.
Paddy Twomey, trainer of Pearls Galore
She has come out of her Fairy Bridge win in great form and will appreciate the track and ground conditions. The step up to a mile should also bring about further improvement in her.
Sheila Lavery, trainer of Belle Image
I would prefer if there was more juice in the ground but she's in good form and came out of Deauville very well. She deserves to be there.
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Empress Josephine, Friendly and Mother Earth
Everything has gone well with Mother Earth since she won at Deauville. She's a lovely, professional filly who relaxes and quickens and we're very happy with her. We tried Empress Josephine over a mile and a quarter last time and she was a little bit keen. The pace of the race wasn't strong enough for her over that distance. She's very happy over a mile and any ease in the ground won't be a disadvantage to her. Friendly works a lot better than what she shows on the track. She has a lot of ability so we will ride her patiently and hopefully she will run well.
Jessica Harrington, trainer of No Speak Alexander
She handles easy ground and wouldn't mind if the rain gets in at all. She hasn't run since France – she got completely murdered that day – so it's best to put a line through that effort. She has been in great form since and we’re looking forward to running her.
Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Pretty Gorgeous
It's been a frustrating year with her. She got a bump at Tipperary and met traffic. We're hoping that she can come back to her best form and, if she did, she would have an each-way chance.
Donnacha O'Brien, trainer of Shale
Shale is in good form. We've put cheekpieces on her and I think it should help her in the middle part of the race. It looks a competitive but open Matron Stakes and we're hoping she has a chance.
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