The three-year-old son of Camelot, a one-time favourite for the Cazoo Derby in Epsom, England, was a half-length winner of today’s €1 million Group 1 contest.
Luxembourg was third behind the ill-fated Coroebus in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, England, in April, before suffering a training setback at Ballydoyle. He returned to action in the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at The Curragh, Ireland, on 13 August, where he was a far from impressive winner in lower grade company.
His trainer Aidan O’Brien admitted at The Curragh last month that he felt the bay colt should improve by 20% on his next run, which he stated at the time would be the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes.
This afternoon, Luxembourg, got the better of a small but select field, which included two French-trained and two British-conditioned horses.
With three of the seven runners trained by Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, Cazoo Derby sixth-placer Stone Age ensured a good pace under jockey Séamie Heffernan. He was followed by his stable companion, six-year-old Broome, the mount of Wayne Lordan.
With former three-time British Champion jockey Ryan Moore in the saddle, Luxembourg held a midfield position for most of the contest.
Entering the home stretch, Stone Age and four-time Dubai Duty Free-winning rider Séamie Heffernan looked to have stolen an advantage on the remainder of the field. The big betting market hopefuls soon made their presence felt as they mounted a strong challenge in the final two furlongs of the Group 1 race.
With Luxembourg coming wide of the field, French-trained Onesto, ridden by Stephane Pasquier, was soon the main challenger to an Irish success. Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) winner Vadeni, also trained in France, was unable to make a challenge as he got shut out by the top-two finishers.
With Luxembourg and Onesto battling for the €570,000 first prize, the Coolmore partners-owned Luxembourg, carrying the colours of Westerberg, pushed ahead to win by a comfortable half-a-length. Onesto had a length-and-a-quarter in hand on his Gallic compatriot Vadeni, who was ridden by Christophe Soumillion.
“We felt going to The Curragh that he was only ready for a racecourse gallop, but he couldn’t come here unless he had a race – that’s why we were so happy with him at The Curragh.” admitted today’s winning handler Aidan O’Brien.
“The plan and the dream was that we mapped out three races for him if we got him back (from injury). If we could get him to The Curragh, he would come here, and if he came here, we could go to the Arc (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp in October). In all credit to the horse, we set him a stiff task.”
O’Brien confirmed that Luxembourg will now head for Paris on the first Sunday in October to contest the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at ParisLongchamp if he comes out of today’s Group 1 race well.
The Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes, the second highest rated race according to the World Thoroughbred Rankings is run over one mile and two furlongs. It is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series ‘Win And You’re In’ race and qualifies today’s winner for the $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Photo courtesy of Horse Racing Ireland