'She was a brilliant filly, very brave and built like a tank'
Brian Sheerin on a breakthrough victory with Matron winner Fiesolana
Fiesolana provided the feelgood factor to the inaugural running of Irish Champions Weekend when she stormed home to take the 2014 Matron Stakes for Willie McCreery and Billy Lee, the first and only Group 1 success both men have achieved.
That dream was very nearly over before it had even begun, as after a fantastic first season with McCreery in which she won five races and climbed from a mark of 93 to 110, Fiesolana left the Tattersalls sales ring in 2013 having being sold for 960,000gns.
Her new buyers, the Niarchos family, decided to send the mare back to McCreery, who masterminded another prolific campaign that culminated with that memorable Matron Stakes win under Lee.
“One thing Fiesolana had was courage," the jockey says. "She had a lot of class but she was a courageous filly and you always knew she'd battle for you if you needed her to.
"She needed to battle that day at Leopardstown, that's for sure. We always had her down as a seven-furlong horse, but in the right circumstances we thought she would see out the mile.
"I decided to track Ryan Moore [on favourite Rizeena] during the early part of the race and we were still going well as we approached the final furlong.
"I held on to her for as long as I could before I pressed the button and she flew home between horses when half a gap appeared for us. She was very brave and I'll never forget that day for as long as I live."
Lee earned huge praise for the waiting tactics he employed aboard Fiesolana, but even now he deflects the praise towards McCreery.
“Willie did a brilliant job with the filly and I was delighted for him because the Niarchos family put a lot of faith in him by sending her back to him after they bought her," he says.
"He always had faith in her and it was just a special day as there was a huge buzz about the place after we won. She was a brilliant filly and was built like a tank, and it was a pleasure to ride her.”