August 1 proved to be a glorious day indeed for Japan as it pocketed yet another historic racing win on the international scene, this one coming in the country's first representation at the Qatar Goodwood Festival at Goodwood Racecourse and ending a 19-year drought on Group 1 wins in Britain for Japan.
Deirdre, a 5-year-old mare from the Ritto stable of Mitsuru Hashida, stunned the crowd on the third day of the five-day racing festival known as Glorious Goodwood with a surprise win of the 1,980-meter Group 1 Nassau Stakes over turf. She went to the gate a 20-to-1 longshot and the eldest against eight fillies, but rallied under Oisin Murphy to finish strongly, relegating the 3-to-1 Mehdaayih and Lanfranco Dettori to second place, and the 6-to-1 Rawdaa under Daniel Tudhope to third. "This is a dream come true. A massive day for Japan," said Murphy, who says Deirdre's long odds had failed to rattle his confidence in the mare."I kept looking at her price, but thinking she had a wonderful chance, and to go and win against a decent field was something else."
It was only the second top-level win for the globe-trotting Deirdre, but her sixth race overseas, all of them Group 1 events. Some 5 1/2 months after winning the Grade 1 Shuka Sho at home in 2017, the Harbinger-sired Deirdre was raced in the Dubai Turf at Meydan, then the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin, and finished third and second, respectively. This year, however, her three overseas excursions saw her finish out of the money. A fourth at Dubai in the Dubai Turf, a sixth at Sha Tin in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup and another sixth in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Ascot dampened expectations and saw odds creep higher, as memories faded of Deirdre's last win, a Grade 2 at Tokyo last October.
In the Nassau Stakes on a beautiful bright Thursday in West Sussex, Deirdre carried 9 stone 7 pounds (60 kg) and broke from the No. 4 gate, in between Mehdaayih and the race favorite, Aidan O'Brien-trained double Guineas winner Hermosa. Dettori had been attempting to make it his fourth top-level win in a row in the U.K. and Mehdaayih (racing under 56.7 kg) looked good as they set a strong pace with Ryan Moore on Hermosa (also carrying 56.7 kg) following close behind.
When the latter, who had been sweating heavily before the race, dropped off quickly with 3 furlongs to go, Dettori looked set for the win. Deirdre, however, had been held up under Murphy, and still had something in the tank. Coming from far off the pace, Deirdre snuck up on the rail, and in a thrilling burst of speed caught and passed Mehdaayih in the final furlong to win by a length and a quarter. Hermosa finished last in the field of nine.
Post-race, Murphy, 23 years old and a native of Ireland, gushed praise. "You can see she is an absolute queen. She is a big, masculine type of a horse and I'm not surprised she was able to carry the 60 kilos which is more than what she is used to."
Hashida was more reserved, although he had just become only the second Japanese trainer to win a Group 1 in Britain, after Hideyuki Mori and his win with Agnes World in the July Cup at Newmarket in 2000. "She was fresh and looking full of energy and I hope my other horses will be able to hold their own up against her," the 66-year-old Hashida said. Fresh in his mind was Cheval Grand's sixth-place finish in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes last week. Both Cheval Grand and Deirdre have been training at Jane Chapple-Hyam's Abington Place Stables in Newmarket.
Racing manager Seiko Hashida said, "It was a very big challenge to come here. We have been in Britain for three months and we are so pleased that we kept believing in her," she said of Deirdre. Connections have yet to decide on their next move, whether to return Deirdre to Japan or stay on, possibly in Europe.Deirdre, now with 8 wins from 25 starts, was bred at Northern Farm in Hokkaido and is owned by Toji Morita. She is out of the Special Week mare Reizend. Her sire Harbinger was trained by Sir Michael Stoute (who trained the Nassau Stakes third-place finisher Rawdaa) and won the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in 2010 by 11 lengths. Harbinger now stands at Shadai Stallion Station.