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Henri Matisse denies The Strikin Viking victory in Railway Stakes

Henri Matisse denies The Strikin Viking victory in Railway Stakes
Henri Matisse denies The Strikin Viking victory in Railway Stakes

Henri Matisse came from last to first to stylishly edge out The Strikin Viking in the GAIN Railway Stakes at the Curragh.

Sent off the 8-1 outsider of the field, the mount of Wayne Lordan was the Aidan O’Brien second string in the Group Two event and was held together in rear during the early stages as Adrian Murray’s Norfolk Stakes third Arizona Blaze led them along.

Kevin Ryan’s The Strikin Viking – named after Manchester City star Erling Haaland – and Ballydoyle favourite Tunbridge Wells were both up with the pace, keen to keep tabs on Arizona Blaze.

As both Arizona Blaze and Tunbridge Wells began to falter, The Strikin Viking looked poised to register a famous success in the Middleham Park Racing colours, but Henri Matisse was making headway throughout the closing stages and galloped on strongly to score by half a length.

It was O’Brien’s first win in the race since Van Beethoven in 2018 and now puts him level with the legendary Vincent O’Brien on a record 14 Railway Stakes victories.

Henri Matisse was shortened to 10-1 from 20s for next year’s 2000 Guineas by both Paddy Power and Betfair in the aftermath, and the winner’s immediate future will involve a return to the Curragh and a step up in trip.

“We’re delighted with him. We thought he was a bit too babyish to go to Ascot and Wayne said he’s still babyish,” said O’Brien.

Aidan O'Brien tasted Railway Stakes success on Sunday
Aidan O’Brien tasted Railway Stakes success on Sunday (Damien Eagers/PA

“He said he’ll love going up to seven and we might go up to seven next, we’ll see what’s there for the Phoenix Stakes.

“He’s a lovely horse, tries very hard and is very genuine. He has an unbelievable pedigree.”

He went on: “I’d say he could be (a National Stakes horse), that’s exactly what I’d say he is.

“That was a Group Two and if he was to go again you’d have to look at either the Futurity or the Phoenix. If he was staying at six it’s the Phoenix and if he’s going to seven it would be the Futurity on the way to the National.

“We haven’t leaned on the colts at all yet. Probably from now on they’ll hopefully start arriving.”

On Ryan Moore choosing Tunbridge Wells he added: “That was my fault really. I thought he was a bit more forward and a bit harder.

“It was hard to assess this horse after the last day, he made very hard work of winning. Obviously I put Ryan on the wrong one, but I do plenty of that!

“Ryan’s horse will be fine, he maybe didn’t travel as strongly as I thought he would and he maybe wants better ground. Maybe he needs to grow up a little bit.”

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