Testing start for Irish Classic season

Torrential rain turned the ground at the Curragh on Saturday from yielding to soft and then to heavy as the Irish Classic season got underway.

Torrential rain turned the ground at the Curragh on Saturday from yielding to soft and then to heavy as the Irish Classic season got underway.

The change in conditions resulted in several withdrawals, but it did not stop Kingman from redeeming his reputation.

A powerful display saw the unlucky Newmarket loser gallpop away and land the 2000 Guineas. Trained across the water by John Gosden but the son of the Irish National Stud stallion Invincible Spirit, Kingman suffered badly at Newmarket when the field split into two groups and went under to the rank outsider Night Of Thunder.

Gosden, who walked the course, allowed his charge take his chance as he considered the ground in pristine condition, which was credit to the groundstaff in spite of the anger of the weather gods.

Drawn on the inside Kingman had little or no cover in the early stages but it made no difference. Once rider James Doyle asked him to quicken he simply changed gears and beat long-time leader Shifting Power by five lengths with the Dermot Weld runner Mustajeeb a further two lengths back in third place.

For a horse that was considered to hate the ground this was a most impressive display. Gosden revealed that he is looking forward to a rematch with Night Of Thunder in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Local punters who made the journey had something to shout about when Pat Shanahan, who is based near Danesfort, captured the mile 76-103 handicap with That’s Plenty.

Having finished third in a hot Chester race last time out the Dr Fong gelding hit the front early in the straight, only to be headed a furlong later. Responding to the urgings of Ronan Whelan, he regained the advantage inside the furlong marker and had a length to spare over the rank outsider Bold Thady Quill.

With €30,000 for the winner this was a prize well worth claiming. It was a hugely competitive affair and, on this evidence, That’s Plenty might well be worth a tilt at a Listed contest.

Fresh from her unprecedented success during the national hunt season trainer Jessica Harrington showed that she can train them on the level as well.

Harrington saddled Jeanne Girl to take the opening juvenile maiden over six furlongs, giving the former Aidan O’Brien charge Rip Van Winkle his first winner as a sire.

The subject of some support on her Naas debut, Jeanne Girl ran very green and never featured. She stepped up considerably on that outing, taking the lead two furlongs out and battling well to hold the late surge of Sexy Legs by a nose.

Ms Harrington said her charge still showed signs of greenness but is going in the right direction. The Queen Mary at Royal Ascot could now be a target, a race that could also be on the agenda for Sexy Legs. A 300,000 guineas purchase the daughter of Dutch Art finished strongly and could have won in another stride or so.

Jim Bolger got Sunday’s card off to the perfect start when sending out Intense Style to cause a 20/1 upset in the opening two-year-old maiden for colts and geldings over a six furlong trip.

Although he had shown ability in previous outings the son of the Ballylinch sire Intense Focus was neglected in the betting market as the heavy hitters went in on Dick Whittington.

The favourite failed to answer the call when rider Joseph O’Brien popped the question and had to be content with second place. In contrast Intense Style looked to have plenty to do at the half-way point, but responded well to the urgings of Kevin Manning to lead at the furlong marker.

Intense Style continued to find plenty from there to the line, where he had a length and a quarter to spare.

Like many of the Bolger horses the winner is home-bred and owned by the trainer’s wife Jackie. Relishing the underfoot conditions, it will be interesting to see how he fares when the going improves.

Aidan O’Brien clocked up Irish Classic number 20 when Marvellous came from well off the pace to take the 1,000 guineas under Ryan Moore.

Stable jockey Joseph O’Brien chose Palace but she was in trouble in the straight and had to be content with fifth place.

Punters could have had any price about Marvellous turning for home, as she had been off the bridle from the outset, but she saw out the trip to lead inside the final furlong, hitting the wire three lengths clear of English runner Lightening Thunder.

While several fancied runners failed to find their best form in the conditions, the winner can go on to better things. A live candidate for the Epsom Oaks, the mile and a half will certainly suit her. A decision about her participation in that race will be made in the days ahead.