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TDN’S Horses Of The Year: Music Box

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Music Box winning the Sceptre S. | Racing Post

By Daithi Harvey

Every day this week, a member of the TDN’s Europe/International team nominates a horse of the season. Daithí Harvey selects the Aidan O’Brien trained Music Box.

Some horses thrive on racing but to me the Aidan O’Brien trained 3-year-old filly Music Box (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) brought this theory to a new level in 2017. Her trainer is no stranger to history making achievements and has been the recipient of numerous accolades throughout his illustrious training career but I feel his handling of Music Box is worthy of particular mention. It is even more important however to stress that O’Brien had a most willing accomplice in the filly as she never missed a beat throughout the whole season, except, that is, when she was grounded through no fault of her own.

Her introduction to racing came at Dundalk in March when she finished third to stable-mate Asking (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) in a maiden but it was a run that attracted the attention of the stewards who ended up slapping O’Brien with a €2,000 fine, jockey Wayne Lordan with a five-day suspension and Music Box with a 42-day ban from racing. Music Box displayed her first sign of resilience when she ran eight days later in Leopardstown, presumably in a bid to gain further experience before she was sidelined for 42 days. She came forward from her debut the week before to finish second to Irishcorrespondent (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) who now plies his trade in Hong Kong under the name Exultant. The following month, with her time served, it was back to work for Music Box and 3 days after her ban ended she appeared in Gowran Park May 23 but had to contend with second place, again beaten by a now Hong Kong resident in Bigwood (Ire) (Requinto {Ire}). There is a chance Music Box may have been a bit ring rusty that day and 13 days later she managed to break her maiden under Ana O’Brien at Gowran June 5.

Back out six days later in the G3 Ballyogan S. at The Curragh June 11, Music Box put in a rare below par effort when she finished only eighth but was back on track five days later finishing second to Orangey Red (Ire) (Lawman {Fr}) at Fairyhouse. At this stage Music Box was rated 85 and appeared to have found her level, just below stakes class. That view seemed justified as she continued her quest, running three times in the next three weeks, looking useful but limited on each occasion. Having again found stakes company too hot when finishing sixth to Realtra (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) in the G3 Brownstown S. at Fairyhouse July 5 she was turned out again three days later to win a handicap at Naas under Donnacha O’Brien, justifying good market support in the process. That win, on her tenth run since the end of March saw her rating rise to 93 and it was time for another go at stakes level. That chance came just nine days later at Killarney and she again showed regular racing was agreeing with her when she found just Drumfad Bay (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) too good in the Listed Cairn Rouge S. July 17. Another nine day gap and another stakes race as Music Box continued her tour of Ireland when she finished second to Only Mine (Ire) (Pour Moi {Ire}) at Naas July 26. It was on to Galway then eight days later for the Listed Corrib Fillies S. where Music Box put up a career best and got revenge on Drumfad Bay to claim a valuable black-type success, going a long way to justifying her 700,000gns yearling price tag.

Music Box was then given a full two weeks to recover from her six runs in the previous five weeks and a step up to the G3 Desmond S. at Leopardstown Aug. 17 was her next assignment. Taking on colts she ran an honourable race to finish second to Alexios Komnenos (Ire) (Choisir {Aus}), another career best which saw her rating climb to 101. A rematch with the Roger Varian trained Realtra 14 days later saw Varian’s filly again confirm her superiority but a solid third saw Music Box run right up to her new handicap mark.

The season’s end was in sight for Music Box and after 15 days without a run the iron filly was sent to Doncaster’s St Leger Festival to contest the G3 JRA Sceptre S. Ryan Moore would partner Music Box for just the third time and he gave the Coolmore partners’ filly a positive ride taking control of the race a furlong out with Music Box running to the line like a fresh horse, ultimately beating 12 rivals by a length and more. In besting the 104-rated pair of Eternally (GB) (Dutch Art {GB}) and Tomyris (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), Music Box again posted a career best but for a 3-year-old filly to achieve such a feat having her 16th run in a little over four months is quite staggering. A tip of the hat to both horse and trainer.

 

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