Laurens was a lucky winner of the Group 1 Matron Stakes on Irish Champions Weekend 12 months ago, but can prove it was no fluke by retaining her crown over 1m at Leopardstown on Saturday (17:25).
This Karl Burke trained filly is the flagbearer for her Yorkshire stable and in a different league to most of her own sex.
Although things haven’t panned out as connections planned in open company, Laurens has a formidable record against the girls.
The four-year-old daughter of Siyouni was a hotly progressive juvenile winning the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster two years ago and followed-up in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.
That made Laurens an obvious Classic contender last season on the back of those efforts. She bumped into shock 1000 Guineas heroine Billesdon Brook at headquarters, but quickly bounced back with two successes over in France.
After scoring in the Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp and Prix de Diane at Chantilly, connections tried her in the Yorkshire Oaks. Laurens didn’t stay, but there was no shame in trying.
She then resumed winning ways when making all and landing this 12 months ago, profiting from ultra-smart Jessica Harrington filly Alpha Centauri losing her action at a key stage.
All Laurens could do in the circumstances was capitalise, however. That Matron Stakes form looks good.
Last year’s race form strong
The fourth filly home, Magical, then landed a Group 1 at Ascot. She also hit a hat-trick at the start of this season.
Laurens followed-up on her Matron Stakes victory in the Sun Chariot at Newmarket when gamely holding Happily by a head.
While British Champions Day after a lengthy campaign and soft ground at Ascot proved her undoing on her final start of last term, she ran well when runner-up in the Lockinge at Newbury on reappearance.
Laurens ran into a race-fit rival in Mustashry, but kept on nicely and chased him home when beaten just 2 1/2 lengths.
She looked sure to come on for the run, but found the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot just a bit too hot.
When pitched back against her own sex for the Prix Rothschild at Deauville, however, Laurens secured a sixth career Group 1 success. She held useful French filly With You by half-a-length in typical gutsy fashion.
Although then turned over when beaten a nose by Shine So Bright when eased in grade at York last time out, Laurens was giving 7lb to the winner over an inadequate trip.
She is joint top on ratings in the Matron Stakes, but unlike last year doesn’t get 5lb weight-for-age. The three-year-old fillies against Laurens all have question marks hanging over them, however.
That makes her the most solid option under regular jockey PJ McDoanld. It would be no surprise to see this likeable and tough filly retain her crown here. Laurens is 13/8 favourite with Paddy Power to do just that.
Hermosa on comeback trail in Matron Stakes
Dual Guineas heroine Hermosa is rated the same as Laurens and is 5lb well-in on race terms, but comes to Leopardstown off the back of two damaging defeats.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won three renewals of the Matron Stakes this decade and his three-year-old daughter of Galileo had the world at her feet after back-to-back Classic triumphs.
Prior to that, Hermosa was a progressive juvenile who won the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes at Naas before chasing home Iridessa in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.
She improved past that re-opposing rival when making all in the English 1000 Guineas and then the Irish equivalent.
These dominant displays marked Hermosa out as the leading three-year-old, but she was stunned by French raider Watch Me in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on her penultimate start.
Connections stepped her up in trip to 10 furlongs for the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last time out.
Hermosa was the first one beaten, however, as Mehdaayih set a strong pace and trailed in last of nine to Japanese mare Deidre. Those losses have knocked a few holes into her profile.
If turning up in the same shape as her Irish Guineas romp, when value for more than the four-length winning margin, then Hermosa has obvious claims in this.
That Goodwood run looks too bad to be true. Hermosa is the clear pick of the O’Brien quartet contesting the Matron Stakes this year and 9/4 with Bethard to resume winning ways.
I Can Fly is the other course and distance winner in the line-up besides Laurens after landing the Group 2 Boomerang Stakes on this card 12 months ago.
As an older filly, she’s conceding weight-for-age and has twice finished behind the favourite.
Skitter Scatter an each-way alternative
The others in this seven-runner field have a bit to find. Iridessa may find this trip too sharp now after her impressive Group 1 success in the 1m 2f Pretty Polly Stakes.
If coming on for her last run, however, then Skitter Scatter looks an each-way alternative to consider on the pick of her form.
Trained by John Oxx, this three-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy hit a hat-trick at the end of last season when in the care of Paddy Prendergast.
Skitter Scatter progressed at a rate of knots through the grades, winning the Silver Flash at Leopardstown and then the Debutante and Moyglare Stud Stakes at The Curragh.
That earmarked her as a Classic contender for this season. Something wasn’t right with Skitter Scatter on reappearance in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, however, as she trailed in last but one.
Injury has kept her off the track for much of this campaign, but she returned to action in the Group 3 Fairy Bridge at Tipperary last month.
Regular jockey Ronan Whelan didn’t give Skitter Scatter a hard time in this race and, although headed close home, she was far from disgraced after a 116-day layoff. This obviously demands more, but that had all the makings of a prep run.
If stripping fitter for her half-a-length defeat and treating her on that scintillating juvenile form, then Skitter Scatter could emerge as the one who gives Laurens most to think about. She’s 10/1 with Boylesports in the Matron Stakes.