On a sweltering summer’s day, Alpha Centauri sent chills down the spines of those watching as she produced a dazzling performance in the Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes.
Alpha Centauri, photo Liesl King
However, nerves meant Jessica Harrington was not able to join them in witnessing her brilliant filly thump six rivals, and several more sleepless night may lay ahead for the trainer too.
With Alpha Centauri sent off the odds-on favourite at Newmarket following scintillating victories in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, Harrington had found the pressure mounting in the build up to Friday’s Group 1.
“I was terribly nervous,” Harrington said. “I was waking up at two in the morning with a sickness in my stomach and wondering what it was.
“I was worrying whether I’d done everything right with her as if I hadn’t and she was beaten, it would've been my fault. I haven’t even really watched the race, so I’ll have to watch the replay.”
Harrington could have done with a calming word from her jockey Colm O’Donoghue, whose absolute faith and confidence in the filly is in contrast to the worry the trainer experiences.
“She’s an exceptional filly and you can do anything with her,” O’Donoghue said after capturing his third Group 1 of the season on the Niarchos family’s three-year-old.
“She’s so relaxed, so responsive and I always ride the race that’s best for my filly. That might mean we lead or we tuck in, whatever suits her, and I just concentrate. She has no faults.”
Such belief meant O’Donoghue had no concerns when the runners popped from the stalls and the riders looked at each other to see who would lead.
Such a situation was no problem to him, he would lead from the front on the best horse and the others would have to come and catch him. They never stood a chance.
Going into the Dip, Alpha Centauri quickened off her own gallop and instantaneous made a field of top-level fillies and mares look average as she was pushed out to a four-and-a-half length success from Altyn Orda and Clemmie, clapped through the final furlong by a bedazzled crowd.
With the three-year-old fillies beaten off and the older rivals not much of a challenge either, it is the boys next for Alpha Centauri with Harrington aiming her first at the Prix Jacques Le Marois, a race sponsored by the Niarchos family, before the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs in November.
She said: “She had to do all the work today and she was brilliant. Colm was delighted and said she’s getting better. She has a very high cruising speed and that really helps her.
“She's absolutely unbelievable. She was hacking along and quickened up – maybe she didn't win as far as she did at Ascot but she had to do the donkey work today. She loves that fast ground and is just a fantastic horse. I'm very lucky to train her.”
She added: “She’ll go to Deauville for the Jacques Le Marois and I know the Niarchos family love the Breeders’ Cup so that’s an option for her too; it’d be fantastic if it happens.
"She’s an amazing filly and the lovely thing about her is that she’s so relaxed after the race - that’s just her. She’s almost too relaxed sometimes and she’s just a wonderful filly.”
The Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes is the ultimate target for runner-up Altyn Orda, with trainer Roger Varian accepting his filly ran as well as she could against an exceptional talent.
He said: “She has run a solid race, the winner is a fantastic filly – she is outstanding, especially on fast ground. But we have to be proud of our filly.
“There's not much more we can say other than we have bumped into a superstar, but she beat the rest. I think she did it comprehensively, too.”