Classic Hope Vespertilio Put Forward To Fill Jannah Rose Void By Al Shira'aa

Vespertilio | Racingfotos.com

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Al Shira'aa boss Kieran Lalor has admitted that it will be hard to top last season's achievements in winning the G1 Prix Saint-Alary with Jannah Rose (Ire) but nominated the Willie McCreery-trained Group 2 scorer Vespertilio (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) as being the operation's best chance of delivering big-race riches in 2024. 

Meanwhile, the decision has been made to retire the powerful owner-breeder's flagship performer Jannah Rose, with a visit to superstar stallion Dubawi (Ire) pencilled in for the four-year-old this spring.

Lalor explained how retiring the Group 1-winning daughter of Frankel (GB) became one of the most difficult decisions he has faced as racing and bloodstock manager at Al Shira'aa but said the outfit still has so much to look forward to on the racetrack this season with Vespertilio primed to lead the team into battle. 

He said, “Jannah Rose has been retired. We made that decision in mid-January and I tell you, it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. Generally speaking, our fillies race on as four- and five-year-olds if they are sound but, aside from Mutamakina (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}), she's our only Group 1 winner and is very important to us. 

“Not only that, but Dubawi is not getting any younger so we thought it was the right time to retire her. She's our first European Group 1 winner and has a very exciting future as a broodmare.”

Casting his mind back to that Saint-Alary victory, Lalor simply said, “Unbelievable. A day I will never forget. The fact that it was her first Group 1, it was very, very exciting. I remember being in Toronto for Mutamakina's EP Taylor. I was on my own and there wasn't another soul in the place because it took place during Covid. So, while that was our first Grade I, it was quite a lonesome celebration. We had some celebration after the Saint-Alary, though.”

Kieran Lalor with Jannah Rose's breeder John Hayes at Longchamp | Emma Berry

Vespertilio showed rare brilliance when coming from last to first in the matter of a few seconds to win the G2 Debutante S. at the Curragh last season. McCreery's ace performer followed up on that victory with a game second to Fallen Angel (GB) (Too Darn Hot {GB}) in the G1 Moyglare S. at the Irish Champions Festival, with the pair pulling well clear of their challengers. 

Lalor says that he is optimistic that Vespertilio can confirm herself a top-notch filly in the making this season and nominated the Irish 1,000 Guineas as her most likely destination before explaining why she may not need a prep for the race.

He said, “The way she won the Debutante was extremely impressive. She was so relaxed at the rear of the field and, without being insulting, made everything else in the race appear ordinary by the way that she quickened up past them in the finish.”

Lalor added, “She's so chilled out. Even in her training, she just drops her head and trucks along-she wouldn't jump out at you in her training. That's why we think she could go straight to a Guineas rather than taking in a trial. It will be ground depending. I think she likes a bit of fast ground, at least a bit of good anyway, so she could go straight to either the French or the Irish 1,000 Guineas. 

“She's obviously French-bred so there's definitely an attraction to that. But on the other hand, she loves the Curragh, and that would appear to be her main target at the moment. You know, that would be a safer bet as it's on home soil and it's essentially a trip across the road compared to travelling over to France.”

It is not the policy of the powerful owner-breeder Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan to race the colts that come through the system but, when Atlantic Coast (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) kicked a wall and was therefore forced to miss the Goffs Orby Sale in 2022, he was put into training with Joseph O'Brien. It has turned out to be for luck with the dual winner, including at Group 3 level, on course to take in the Irish or French 2,000 Guineas this season. 

Lalor said, “Atlantic Coast is doing great. He ran very well on Irish Champions Weekend when third behind Diego Velazquez (Ire) (Frankel {GB}, who could be anything, before winning the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown. We're looking at either the French or Irish 2,000 Guineas and he can handle a bit of cut in the ground. He'll probably go for a prep beforehand.”

High-class older filly Ocean Jewel (Ire) (Sioux Nation) looks set to be on her travels, with top-flight races in America pencilled in for the Group 3 winner, with Lalor explaining that there are 13 two-year-olds that will be added to the system this year.

He said, “Ocean Jewel could run on the opening day at the Curragh but Willie and I have spoken about racing her in America where you are guaranteed nice ground. She's developed into a lovely filly and is from a very good family. I think she will get the mile pretty easily and we'd love to win a Group 1 with her.”

On the youngsters, he added, “We have 13 two-year-olds and shopped the sales pretty hard last year. It was a very difficult sales season and we might have ended the year as the champion underbidder! We bought five lovely fillies who will add to the nice group of homebreds that we will be putting into training. We're trying mostly to focus on those Classic types and, while we haven't picked trainers for the youngsters yet, we have some lovely types. 

“We have the American Pharoah half-sister to Onesto (Ire), the Wootton Bassett (GB) out of a sister to Saxon Warrior (Jpn), the Siyouni (Fr) half-sister to Al Husn (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}) and the Sea The Stars (Ire) filly out of Jumooh (GB) (Monsun {Ger}) and then we have a blast of our own homebreds who we are very excited about as well.”

Al Shira'aa has quickly established itself as a leading international player. The modus operandi is quality over quantity and, in a week where a host of Classic plans have been hatched for some of the less-exposed fillies in training in France and decisions made to send some of the more ground-dependant runners to continue their careers stateside, there seems to be unparalleled levels of excitement building for the upcoming campaign even in the absence of the star performer Jannah Rose. 

Lalor said, “We've Saadiyat (Ire), a lovely Lope De Vega (Ire) filly who is a sister to Broome (Ire), Point Lonsdale (Ire) and Diego Velazquez, who was with Carlos Laffon-Parias last year. She is going to head out to America this year to Christophe Clement. Foxtrot Zulu (Ire), a Saxon Warrior half-sister to Going Global (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}), is going to join Christophe as well. I think they will prefer the ground out there.”

He added, “And then we have Rumi's sister Jannah Pearl (Fr) (Galileo {Ire}) who is entered for the French Oaks. She is yet to run but we're not too far away with her. The Siyouni (Fr) half-sister to Native Trail (GB), named Native Pearl (Fr), is actually a very good filly. We ran her once last year on bottomless ground and that was a mistake. She is a much better filly than that and will be entered in the French 1,000 Guineas and the French Oaks. 

“A filly we have a lot of hope for this year is [Waldgeist's half-sister] Caelestis (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}). She's a filly who has just taken a bit of time mentally but she's won her maiden we're hoping for some good black-type from her this year. It's going to be very hard to match the achievements of last year but God loves a dreamer.”

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