Magical eyeballs Ghaiyyath and gets her revenge in epic Irish Champion Stakes
There is something mythical about Magical. She really should not have been here at all and somewhere in a parallel universe she is waiting to greet her first foal with No Nay Never, looking back on a career that was contaminated by Enable.
Instead, here she was beating the world's best horse and emulating Dylan Thomas by winning the Irish Champion Stakes twice. Only two horses have managed that feat. It was the 12th victory of her career, a seventh at Group 1 level, and it was achieved in typically tenacious fashion.
We would have been deprived of the race of the season had she stayed in retirement. This, you could argue, stamps her down as the best mare Aidan O'Brien has ever trained, although Love might have something to say about that next month.
It was tactically absorbing and you could not take your eyes off it. The start; to see whether anything would take on Ghaiyyath. The mid-section; to see if anything would try to pounce early and upset the flow of the front-runner. The end; to see whether the world's highest-rated horse had the stomach for a bruising battle.
In fairness to Ghaiyyath, he did not lie down. The problem, you see, was that he was facing the toughest mare in training and she would not back down. She eyeballed the odds-on favourite and was in peak physical condition this time, unlike at York where O'Brien admitted he had left a bit to work on. She was too tough, too willing, too good.
"She's tough, genuine, determined, has speed – she has everything. I'm over the moon and Seamus gave her a brilliant ride," said O'Brien after winning the race for a ninth time.
The master trainer continued: "We were very happy after York, we saw what she was able to do. When she went by herself at York she just lost interest and, when the others came around her she started staying on after the race was over.
"What she always wants is to eyeball a horse and battle. Seamus was happy to make the running today if William [Buick, on Ghaiyyath] wanted to get a lead and, if William was going to go on, Seamus was going to go with him to keep her interested. He gave her a brilliant ride.
"She's one serious mare when you get into a battle with her. When you really get into a battle with her, that's when you really see what she can do as you saw there today.
"I suppose we are learning about her all the time. If you get away from her she gets a bit lazy but if you get into a fight with her very few will eyeball her. That's what she did, she eyeballed the colt all the way."
Reflecting on the breeding turnaround. O'Brien added: "The lads made the call and all credit to them for doing it. She was booked to go to No Nay Never and we were just so delighted that they decided to give her another go. They said that hopefully No Nay Never will be there next year and hopefully she will be as well. She's an amazing mare."
Heffernan was, you suspect, secretly thrilled that Ryan Moore was on Japan rather than Magical. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands to win the Irish Champion Stakes for a third time. This one, you sense, must have given him the most pleasure.
Heffernan said: "When there is pace on the best horses, the most genuine ones, will fight out the finish and that's what happened today. I felt I was a winner every step of the way. Once I landed on his girth, I knew I would win. I seen him [Ghaiyyath] having a look at her at the start, he knew we were there today. He knew we meant business.
"Some horses can disappoint you. You can see champions in the morning and then they disappoint you at the races. This filly has probably never given absolutely everything but she has still managed to win seven Group 1s. She's very sound and is up for it every day. She's very straightforward, she's big and honest."
Magical has been beaten four times by Enable, but she might get a chance to make it fifth time lucky in the Arc for which she was cut to 8-1 from 20-1 by Betfair and Paddy Power.
Buick could offer up no excuses for Ghaiyyath, who had beaten Magical by three lengths in the Juddmonte International. This time he had to settle for a three-quarter-length defeat. His jockey felt he was in the same rhythm as usual.
Perhaps Ghaiyyath just bumped into a different Magical. This was one of those days that she was just not going to take no for an answer and, when she turns up in that sort of mood, she is wonderful to watch.