With the Cheltenham Festival done for another year, many peoples attention will be turning to the up and coming flat season. Andrew Fletcher continues his 1000 Guineas ante-post series here at the Tavern; This week he looks at Lightening Pearl.
The third part of my 2012 1000 Guineas series looks at Lightening Pearl trained by Ger Lyons, the former national hunt jockey who now has a base twenty miles outside of Dublin. She is owned by Pearl Bloodstock, the organisation of Sheikh Fahad of the QIPCO investment group.
Her racing career began back in June at Navan in a 6f maiden. After showing signs of greenness in the early stages, she was positioned in mid-division. With a furlong and a half to travel she was ridden along and began to get the hang of racing, staying on to finish second, beaten a couple of lengths. The winner of the contest was the future winner of the Group 3 Grangecon Stud Stakes, Experience.
The filly returned to the racecourse in July, this time stepped up to 7f. This time she was positioned towards the head of proceedings by her new pilot, Johnny Murtagh. From around two furlongs out she was asked to quicken and continued to find under pressure to hold off her challengers and win by a couple of lengths. She beat very little here, overcoming a future Corkmaiden winner, Among Equals and winner of a Wolverhampton claimer, Speedy Yaki.
Her next appearance saw her stepped up in class in the Group 2 Debutante Stakes over 7f at the Curragh. On this occasion she sat behind the leaders in 3rd position, before being asked to quicken with 2f to go, the winner drew well clear and Lightening Pearl was headed on the line for second. The filly that beat her was Maybe, who was unbeaten at two and is currently the ante-post favourite for the 1000 Guineas. The second placed horse was the winner of a 7f maiden at Leopardstown, Yellow Rosebud trained by Dermot Weld.
She was dropped back in trip to 6f and to Group 3 company for her next start in the Go and Go Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh at the end of August. She sat second before being pushed to the front with 2f to go and she kept on up the standside rail. She soon drew away to win by five lengths, in doing so she reversed the maiden form with Experience and also beat a Listed winner in An Ghalanta.
Lightening Pearl’s final start as a two year old came at the end of September in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes over 6f at Newmarket. Once again located towards the head of proceedings, she was shaken up with 2.5f to go and hung towards the centre of the course. The second horse was closing fast towards the end but Lightening Pearl hung on to win by a ½ length, giving her owner Sheikh Fahad his first Group 1 victory. The second horse in the race, Sunday Times won a Goodwood maiden prior to the Cheveley Park and was fifth behind Wading in the Rockfel in October; some of the others in behind Lightening Pearl were Group 2 winner Angels Will Fall and dual Group 2 winner, Best Terms.
After the Cheveley Park Stakes, the 1000Guineaswas identified as the target for the filly by connections. David Redvers, racing advisor to Sheikh Fahad suggested she may not stay a mile due to her speed but Johnny Murtagh, who partnered her on three of her five starts was confident she would have the stamina to get a mile. It has also been suggested by her trainer that she would probably improve for a bit of cut in the ground despite her Group 1 win coming on fast ground.
In terms of her breeding, she is by Marju, the winner of the Craven (8f) and the St James’ Palace (8f) during the 1991 season, in which he was also second in the Derby over a mile and a half. At stud he has produced horses at their best over a variety of distances and has sired 19 separate Group 1 winners worldwide. The best of his progeny include Viva Pitaca, a Listed winner over 8f at Pontefract and a winner of eight Group 1s in Hong Kong from 10-12f. Others include Soviet Song, a five time Group 1 winner over a mile including two victories in the Falmouth Stakes and Indigenous, a winner of four Group 1s in Hong Kong over 10-12f.
Lightening Pearl’s dam is Jioconda, a Listed winner over a mile as a two year old. Her only other produce of running age is Jolie Jiconde, a full sister to Lightening Pearl who was a winner over 11f at Dundalk and was also third to Zoffany in the Group 3 Tyros Stakes over 7f at Leopardstown.
The damsire is Rossini, a dual Group winner over 6f whose produce at stud have run best at 5-9f. His progeny have included Tournedos, a winner of the Group 3 Molecomb Stakes over 5f at Goodwood as well as two wins in the Chester City Wall Stakes over the same distance (Listed). As well as Golden Legacy, a Group 3 winner over 6f at Ayr and Rose Hip, a Listed winner over 9f at Leopardstown.
Lightening Pearl ended her two year old campaign in the best way, winning a Group 1 in the Cheveley Park Stakes. She appeared to be at her best at 6f but as I mentioned earlier, Johnny Murtagh believes the step up to a mile should not be a problem. Her pedigree seems to back this up given that her full sister was a winner over further than a mile and that there are winners over a mile and further on both sides of the family. Marju’s produce also have a tendency to progress and if she has developed over the winter perhaps she will be better equipped to tackle a mile in the Guineas. That said, she was well beaten by Maybe in the Debutante Stakes and the filly which finished second to her in the Cheveley Park was also a long way behind Wading in the Rockfel. Therefore, even if the doubts surrounding her ability to stay a mile prove inaccurate, she would still have to improve on what she had shown in her two year old campaign in order to be a contender for the 1000 Guineas.
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Photo Credit: LighteningPearlwinning the Cheveley Park Stakes betting.betfair.com
Photo Credit 2: Soviet Song superfectablog.com