A number of impressive records were set with the victory of Empress Josephine in the Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas at The Curragh on Sunday.
The 14/1 chance provided her champion sire Galileo with a 90th Group 1 winner and a 336th stakes victory, while the win also provided the late Coolmore sire Danehill Dancer with his 15th Group 1 winner as a broodmare sire.
Empress Josephine’s jockey Séamie Heffernan was winning the fillies’ one-mile Classic for the fifth time, while her handler Aidan O’Brien was achieving a 10th success in the race.
O’Brien was previously successful in the Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas with Classic Park (1997), Imagine (2001), Yesterday (2003), Halfway To Heaven (2008), Misty For Me (2011), Marvellous (2014), Winter (2017), Hermosa (2019) and Peaceful (2020).
Heffernan, who first met O’Brien when both worked for Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas-winning trainer Jim Bolger, has now partnered five of O’Brien’s Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas winners: Imagine, Halfway To Heaven, Misty For Me, Peaceful and Empress Josephine.
In a slowly run race at Irish flat racing’s headquarters, Empress Josephine was settled in midfield as No Speak Alexander from the Jessica Harrington yard lead from the front. Under a canny ride from veteran Heffernan, the eventual winner travelled down the centre of the racetrack to challenge her stable companion and half-sister Joan Of Arc, the mount of Ryan Moore.
The Coolmore partners-owned Empress Josephine got up in the final strides to win by a short head from the Group 3 Irish 1000 Guineas Trial winner at Leopardstown, Joan Of Arc, with No Speak Alexander finishing a further length back in third place.
Empress Josephine was a maiden winner on debut at Naas on 28 March. She subsequently disappointed in the Ballylinch Stud “Priory Belle” Irish 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown on 11 April when only finishing 10th in the 15-runner race. Her most recent race saw her claim the runner-up spot in the Listed Victor McCalmont Stakes at Gowran Park.
Empress Josephine is out of dual Group 1 winner Lillie Langtry who has produced three other winners in seven-time Group 1 winner Minding as well as Group 3 winner Kissed By Angels and winning filly Heaven On Earth, all by Coolmore stallion Galileo.
Aidan O’Brien, who trained the exacta in the Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas said:
“I’m delighted with them. We thought this filly (Empress Josephine) was very good after her maiden and we thought coming back to a mile and taking our time with her might suit.”
“She’s a seriously bred filly – she’s a sister to Minding and unbelievable really,” he added. “We’ll see what the lads (Coolmore partners) want to do but we could have a look at a Coronation with her.”
Winning jockey, Séamie Heffernan, who was claiming his 36th Group 1 victory, said of Empress Josephine:
“I was happy where I was every stride of the race. She has a bit of class. It’s my fifth 1000 Guineas – it’s a pleasure to be riding good horses. I give the odd one a good ride; I give the odd one a bad ride, but it’s a pleasure to be on the team riding good horses.”
When asked if the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom over a mile and half might be a target for the three year old daughter of Galileo, Heffernan, like O’Brien, suggested the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot next month as being more suitable, explaining:
“At the moment she probably won’t get a mile and a half (at Epsom) but in a couple of months when she’s more mature, stronger and more relaxed, she could stay. It depends on how much progress she makes.”
Photo: The Curragh Racecourse Twitter account: @curraghrace