The question of just who is Europe’s champion three year old filly was settled in no uncertain terms on Friday at Royal Ascot when the winners of the English, French and Irish 1,000 Guineas met in the Coronation Stakes.
Alpha Centauri, the winner in Ireland, was favoured in the betting ahead of Clemmie, Aidan O’Brien’s champion two year old who had disappointed in the Guineas at the Curragh but was expected to bounce back here. But English Guineas winner Billesdon Brook and French 1,000 Guineas winner Teppal had both won their respective classics well and connections were hopeful.
In the end the market told the story as Alpha Centauri waltzed away with the race by six lengths, smashing the track record in the process.
It was the first Royal Ascot winner for Irish trainer Jessica Harrington, more familiar to racegoers with winners at Cheltenham, where she trained the 2017 Gold Cup winner Sizing John, than at Ascot but a trainer who has shown herself more than capable under both codes. “We were very much under the radar going into the Guineas after two races on soft ground, where she didn’t run as well as she could, and there was no pressure on us. Today a lot of people expected her to win as she was favourite and that brings a lot of pressure,” said Harrington after the race.
Jockey Colm O’Donoghue had Alpha Centauri in a fairly prominent position throughout the contest and as they turned into the home straight he started to ask his filly and the response was immediate. “I’ve always been very confident about her. I felt she hit the front too soon, but the further she went the better she was,” said Harrington, who had to suffer disappointment last year when Alpha Centauri was beaten here in the Albany Stakes.
But there was to be no disappointment on this occasion, her reputation now sky-high after breaking the track record which previously belonged to the crack miler Barney Roy.
Plans were fluid for the winner but the Prix Jacques Le Marois was mentioned as a possibility and she may renew rivalry there with the runner up today, the Mark Johnston trained Threading. Johnston was quick t praise the winner but stressed he wouldn’t be running scared of just one horse and said a re-match was a possibility.