Matron Stakes: Aidan O'Brien blames spell on the sidelines for Winter defeat to Hydrangea

Sat 9 Sep 2017

By Geoffrey Riddle

Aidan O’Brien blamed Winter’s missed work after the grey went down by a head to Hydrangea in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes on Saturday.

The Evens favourite was denied a fifth successive Group One victory in the mile contest after missing eight days work because of a bruised foot after her Nassau Stakes win at Glorious Goodwood last month.

The mount of Ryan Moore was outgunned in the closing stages by her less illustrious stable companion, who stunned punters with a 20-1 success on her first start at Leopardstown since she downed her fellow daughter of Galileo by the same margin in April.

When asked whether it was Winter’s brief spell on the sidelines that was the reason for the defeat, the master of Ballydoyle said: “I would say it was. Ryan said she took a blow on him. We thought she would. That was the way it was.”

The two fillies are morning work companions and O’Brien believed that Hydrangea simply took the time off better than her more illustrious stable companion.

“They are work partners all the time and Hydrangea does most of the donkey work every day. When they turned in maybe Winter said to Hydrangea that ‘you can have this one today’,” he joked, in an interview with At The Races.

Hydrangea - Winter - Leopardstown - Matron - Racingfotos Hydrangea beat Winter for the second time. Saturday's race was the sixth time the two have contested a race together (Racingfotos)

“They ran here together in the [Irish 1000 Guineas] trial before they went to Newmarket and it was the same thing; Hydrangea pipped Winter.

“She was won of the four fillies who had not won a Group One so I am delighted.”

Hydrangea earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar on November 4 for her efforts, although that race is staged over ten furlongs.

O'Brien revealed that the winner would stay further and suggested that both fillies could well head to Chantilly in France for the Prix l'Opera on the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe card. Winter is also engaged in the Arc itself and is a best-priced 16-1 behind Evens favourite Enable.

Wayne Lordan had ridden Winter to victory in her upset success in the English 1000 Guineas before she embarked on her stunning sequence under Moore in the Irish equivalent, the Coronation Stakes and Nassau Stakes.

And the jockey believed the victory owed more to Hydrangea’s liking for the course. "She’s a very consistent filly and has been running well all year,” he said.

"Her last win was a Guineas trial. She likes the track. It was nice for the filly as she has been beaten in races by four to five lengths. It was her day."

Winter was one of four horses in the race for O’Brien and it was Roly Poly, who was seeking a third Group One win on the spin herself, who set the pace under Seamie Heffernan.

Lordan had Hydrangea alongside for much of the early stages, while Moore was happy to anchor in behind two lengths away.

Godolphin’s Wuheida was placed in fourth under James Doyle, while O’Brien’s Rhododendron was held up with the likes of raiders Persuasive and Qemah.

Coming around the bend, Heffernan glanced over his inside shoulder to see where Winter was and Moore urged his mount down the middle and it looked as though Winter's class might prevail.

Hydrangea simply did not give in and kept on to edge past in the dying strides.

The John Gosden-trained Persuasive came from way back from her poor draw to finish a fine third, while Godolphin's Wuheida was fourth for Charlie Appleby.

When asked whether he thought he had won the race, Lordan replied. "I didn’t to be honest. Winter quickened up well and this one put her head down and tried very hard."

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