Vespertilio Al Shira'aa's 'Best Chance' At Irish Champions Festival

Kieran Lalor: racing and bloodstock manager Lalor at Al Shira'aa | Zunzanna Lupa


Al Shira'aa's Kieran Lalor has nominated Vespertilio (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) as the operation's best chance of a winner at the Irish Champions Festival where the rapidly-progressive filly lines out in Sunday's G1 Moyglare S. at the Curragh. 

Vespertilio forms part of a three-pronged attack on Ireland's flagship Flat festival that features homebred Atlantic Coast (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) in Saturday's G2 KPMG Champions Juvenile S. at Leopardstown and Ocean Jewel (Ire) (Sioux Nation) in the Matron S. on the same card. 

“We've six horses in training in Ireland and three of them are competing at the Irish Champions Festival, so we need to keep pinching ourselves,” racing and bloodstock manager Lalor said on Friday. 

The black and red silks of Al Shira'aa has already enjoyed top-level triumphs with Mutamakina (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) in America and Jannah Rose in France (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) and Lalor has talked up the chances of Vespertilio in Sunday's eagerly-anticipated Moyglare. 

Vespertilio comes into that race off the back of a wildly impressive display in the G2 Debutante S. over the same course and distance and, while Lalor is respectful of the opposition with G3 Silver Flash S. conqueror Ylang Ylang (GB) (Frankel {GB}) heading the market, he is expecting a bold show.

He said, “Vespertilio is getting better and better with experience. She had a fantastic run in the Debutante, showing a tremendous turn of foot to come from last under Billy [Lee] and I don't think he had to ride her too hard to do that, either. I'd say if she had been closer to Ylang Ylang in the Silver Flash, I think she would have been right there at the line. She's only a May foal so is developing and growing all the time.”

Lalor added, “She's just getting better and better with racing. It's a tough task and to have a runner in the Moyglare is very special for us. We're going in there with a lot of confidence but obviously it's Group 1 and anything can happen. We're very excited. She's our best chance of the weekend and it's great for Willie [McCreery, trainer], who is a big part of our operation. He's a top-class trainer–he was a bloody good footballer but some would argue he's an even better trainer and he's hugely important to us.”

Atlantic Coast has the unwanted task of staring down the barrel of another Ballydoyle big gun in Diego Velazquez (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) at Leopardstown. 

Trained by Joseph O'Brien, the homebred colt made a fine start to his career when winning a Curragh maiden in good fashion, and Lalor is expecting more to come.

He said, “This is actually a good story because we usually sell all of our colts but the day before the Orby, David Cox of Baroda Stud called to say that this lad had kicked a wall and that he had to be scratched. Thank God he did! 

“Now, he probably would have made three or four hundred grand because he's such a beautiful-looking colt, but it's very special for everyone on the farm to have a homebred running in a Group 2 at the Irish Champions Festival.”

Lalor added, “It's a big step up from a maiden into a Group 2 but Joseph has done a brilliant job with him and I don't think stepping up to a mile will be an issue for him either. It's a good race, with Deepone and Formal Display in there, but it seems as though we all have to beat Diego Velazquez.”

Should Diego Velazquez justify his short price in the betting, it wouldn't be all that bad for Al Shira'aa, the emerging bloodstock force of Sheikha Fatima bint Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan. 

Lalor wisely secured Saadiyat (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}), a half-sister to Diego Velazquez, at Book 1 at Tattersalls in 2021 and the page has gone from strength to strength ever since. 

Saadiyat, like the majority of the Al Shira'aa string, will return to the farm just off the Curragh at Maddenstown and join the broodmare band when her career is over. 

The small but select approach to one of the newest owner-breeding operations in Ireland is paying rich dividends and, while Al Shira'aa were not active at Arqana last month, Lalor explained that it was not for a lack of trying and he revealed the team would be out in force at the Goffs and Tattersalls sales in the coming weeks. 

Lalor said, “We didn't get anything at Arqana but we plan on being active at the Orby at Goffs and at Tattersalls as well. I must say that the Orby looks very good this year. I've gone through the catalogue a couple of times and it looks like one of those great Orbys from the late nineties when everyone was scrapping for Flame Of Taras and the like. We've a very big list to get through and, in fairness to the breeders and to Goffs, they've put on a good book. Hopefully the physicals match up.”

But before then, Al Shira'aa also has Ocean Jewel to look forward to the Matron, and Lalor is not ruling out McCreery's filly out-running her odds of 33-1. 

He said, “Ocean Jewel is much better than what she showed at Naas a few weeks back. She won a Group 3 at Leopardstown over seven furlongs earlier this season and the question with her is if she will get the mile or not. If she does, she could get a slice of it but Tahiyra is the one to beat, for sure. The ground will suit Ocean Jewel and anything can happen at this level. She's a very good filly and deserves a shot at her Group 1 here. This has been the plan for a while.”

He added, “The really exciting thing about this is, when I speak to the boss, everything points to the future and with these fillies, they will all retire here and are exciting broodmares for us to look forward to.”


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