One-time Cazoo Derby favourite Luxembourg made his long-awaited return to the track on Saturday when winning the Fitzdares Royal Whip Stakes (Group 3) at The Curragh, Ireland.
In his first race at 1 mile 2 furlongs – all his previous races were at a mile – Luxembourg had to work hard under Ryan Moore to hold off the brave challenge of the five-year-old mare Insinuendo, who was giving the winner five pounds.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Luxembourg had an easy lead in the race as his stable companions Realism (eventual third) and Anchorage (finished fifth) set the early fractions.
Carrying the colours of part-owner Westerberg – the Ben Sangster-bred colt is co-owned by the Coolmore partners – Luxembourg was held up for much of the race until approaching the three-furlong pole. Jockey Ryan Moore asked the 2/9f to make his move and had the lead two furlongs from home.
The eventual second and main challenger to Luxembourg, Insinuendo, was caught for room at a crucial time at the two-furlong marker and had to be switched left by rider Billy Lee.
With both Luxembourg and Insinuendo going head-to-head inside the last furlong of the race, Lee and Insinuendo looked as they would pass the race favourite, but the Ballydoyle inmate fought valiantly to the line to hold off the daughter of Gleneagles by a neck.
Realism, a leader in the early stages of the contest, stayed on well at 66/1 for jockey Wayne Lordan to claim third place, four-and-a-quarter lengths behind the runner-up.
Speaking to Racing TV after the narrow victory of Luxembourg, successful trainer Aidan O’Brien was delighted with the win considering the colt had suffered another setback in the recent weeks.
“I’m over the moon, really,” the Ballydoyle handler admitted. “Three weeks ago I didn’t think we’d get here. He had a big setback (O’Brien did not state what the setback was) and usually when they have the setback he had, there isn’t any way you would get here and then he had another setback (a skin allergy).”
Luxembourg, the talking horse for much of last winter following his Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy success at Doncaster, England, at the end of last season, began his three-year-old campaign with a third-place finish in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, England.
He was beaten by the Godolphin-owned pair Coroebus and Native Trail by three-quarters of a length and one-and-a-quarter lengths respectively in the opening English Classic of 2022. Coroebus has since won the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, while Native Trail won the Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh.
The son of Camelot, the winner of the Derby in Ireland and England, Luxembourg was unbeaten as a juvenile with victories in Killarney and The Curragh (Group 2), before his Doncaster Group 1 victory in October 2021.
Luxembourg will now be aimed at the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Longines Irish Champions Weekend with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp in October as another end-of-season target.
“We had our eye on the Irish Champion Stakes with him but we were obviously on the back foot coming in here,” Aidan O’Brien admitted to Racing TV. “He needed to run but he wasn’t ready for a grueller (a grueling race) but he needed to run hard the last two or three furlongs so that when he went into a Championship race he would have quick feet.
“We are very happy with where we are today with him. He never got into anything like top gear early in the race but he had to find it in the last two furlongs. We thought that he would improve 20-30 percent after today’s race,” the Irish champion trainer stated.
Photo: Luxembourg (David Betts)