2000 – Crimplene (Clive Brittain, Philip Robinson)
Clive Brittain was one of my favourite trainers before I started working in racing and I remember a stable visit that he did once talking up Best Of The Bests and Teggiano so it was great to see the charismatic Suffolk sorcerer land this Irish Classic.
This filly had an unusual preparation lining up in the Italian and German 1,000 Guineas, which is often a sign that a trainer thinks their horse is high-class, but not quite up with the best of their generation.
Crimplene was third on soft ground at Capannelle, but faster ground in Dusseldorf brought out the very best in her and she hosed up by four lengths from the Michael Grassick-trained Margay.
Whether that success convinced Brittain to pack his bags for The Curragh is guesswork, but she duly arrived and made virtually all under a lovely Philip Robinson ride to master Amethyst by a length and a half.
2003 – Yesterday (Aidan O’Brien, Mick Kinane)
Any such list would be incomplete without an Aidan O’Brien-trained horse as the master handler has won this heat a record eight times including with the likes of Imagine (2001), Winter (2017) and Hermosa last year.
Unlike Imagine, this filly wasn’t able to go on to an English Oaks success next time out but she was really unlucky at Epsom where she didn’t get a clear run about two furlongs out and was again inconvenienced a furlong later before being pipped by a neck in a pulsating finish.
In fact she never won again after this victory, when it took all of Mick Kinane’s legendary strength to get her home by a short-head from French raider Six Perfections.
But as well as the narrow Epsom reversal, she was beaten a head in both the top-class Prix Vermeille and Prix de l’Opera before ending this season with a third behind Islington in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. To me she lost nothing in these defeats as she just seemed to try so damn hard.
2004 – Attraction (Mark Johnston, Kevin Darley)
Owner breeder the Duke of Roxburghe may not have been happy that his Efisio filly had crooked forelegs, but any lack of perfect physical confirmation was definitely a blessing in disguise as he didn’t think she could be sold so raced her in his own green and grey silks.
She was a warm order to win at The Curragh, being sent off 2-1 favourite after six unbeaten runs and she didn’t let her supporters down, making virtually all under Kevin Darley to score by a length from Alexander Goldrun and become the first filly to land the English-Irish Guineas double.
For good measure Attraction added the Coronation Stakes to her curriculum vitae on her next start and added two further top-class victories to her tally before retiring in 2005.
Her Classic season exploits made her the best three-year-old miler in the world according to World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankins.
2016 – Jet Setting (Adrian Keatley, Shane Foley)
Oliver McKiernan’s former assistant Adrian Keatley took out his training licence in 2014 and just two years’ later was saddling his first Classic winner at his local track.
The winner was sent off a 9-1 poke which in hindsight was a big price after she had landed the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown a month earlier by three lengths from Now Or Later.
She was then beaten by just over eight lengths in the English equivalent, but considering she was carried left and hampered entering the final furlong at Newmarket the result was better than it looked on paper.
It was a pleasure to witness a small stable like Keatley’s reverse the form with the English heroine Minding in a thrilling finish by a head under a power-packed Shane Foley ride and best wishes go to the winning handler who has recently relocated to Yorkshire to start training there.
2018 – Alpha Centauri (Jessica Harrington, Colm O’Donoghue)
Jessica Harrington is arguably the pre-eminent dual-purpose trainer of our era so it was great to see the Moone magician scoop her first Classic courtesy of Alpha Centauri.
It was also notable that Colm O’Donoghue was in the saddle as it was over 20 years since he’d ridden his first winner as an apprentice at Sligo in 1997.
The winner had been well beaten previously in the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown, but it had been heavy ground that day and back on good ground she proved a different proposition, hitting the front in the final 100 yards and denying Could It Be Love by a length and three-quarters.
The winner thrived after The Curragh winning three more top-class races in succession.