Aidan O’Brien, who seems to hold all the aces as far as next year’s Classics are concerned, has added another contender to his list.
The Ballydoyle maestro was on hand to greet Ol’ Man River, who ran out a comfortable winner of the Group Two Beresford Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.
The son of Montjeu impressed many with his debut victory at the venue, with punters wading in to send him off an odds-on favourite.
Tombelaine from the Dermot Weld stable set the pace until approaching the final furlong, when he dropped away but Joseph O’Brien had Ol’ Man River in full flow by then. The combination raced clears to land the spoils by a comfortable two and three-quarter lengths from Clonard Street, with another O’Brien runner Battle Of Marathon three-quarters of a length further back in third place.
While the form purists might try to pick holes in the quality of the race there is no doubt that the winner did his job with the utmost efficiency. He is out of the Anglo Irish Oaks heroine Finsceal Beo and cost connections €2,850,000 when purchased at Goffs yearling sales last year. Even at this price he now looks good value.
In the immediate aftermath of the race bookmakers were jumping up and down, offering different prices about him for next season’s Epsom Derby but O’Brien is not looking that far ahead just yet.
Although the progeny of his sire stay well his dam’s sire Mt Greeley is better known for getting milers and mile and a quarter horses. It will be interesting to see what route he takes from here.
The trainer was noncommittal about his next objective and suggested that the might put him away until the Spring as he has gained the necessary experience. However, if he is to have another outing the Dewhurst Stakes looks the obvious target.
The Fastnet Rock filly Qualify set the ball rolling for the Ballydoyle team with victory in the Group Three C.L & M.F. Weld Stakes for juvenile fillies over seven furlongs.
Settled off the pace, Qualify came with a tremendous rattle in the straight to lead inside the final furlong and, with jockey Joseph O’Brien looking around for danger, beat Lola Beaux by three lengths.
Different riding tactics were thought to have made all the difference to the winner, as her speed was utilised to the full. Well regarded, the Fillies Mile is under consideration as long as ground conditions remain on the fast side.
The Great War looked a highly exciting colt in the early part of the season but he seemed to go off the boil. He went some way to redeeming his reputation with a solid victory in the Listed Blenhelm Stakes, providing O’Brien with the middle leg of his hat-trick.
On paper this hardly looked a vintage renewal of this race as there was money for a few of the runners, including the Eddie Lynam newcomer Byzantium, who caught a few eyes with her third place finish.
Never too far off the leaders The Great Way had the advantage of the rail from the two furlong marker. He showed plenty of resolve when the gun was put to his head to draw three lengths clear of main market rival Tamadhor.
Joseph O’Brien went one better than his father by completing a fabulous four-timer when getting the 20/1 chance Elusive Time home narrowly in the mile 71-94 handicap.
Always well placed, the six-year-old responded well to the urgings of his rider from the two furlong pole. Taking the lead well inside the final furlong, Elusive Time nabbed the money by three-parts of a length.
Jessica Harrington, who has enjoyed tremendous season with her flat horses, joined forces with her daughter Kate to capture the mile and a half amateur derby courtesy of Hurricane Ridge.
A good servant to connections, Hurricane Ridge is as versatile as they come as he showed when winning over fences at Killarney and Listowel. He did not go unsupported here and got a very positive ride.
Always close to the pace Hurricane Ridge want on a mile or so out. He defied all comers to catch him, finding plenty when the chips were down to hit the wire half a length to the good from Focas Mor.
Speaking after the race the winning trainer said that a return to the larger obstacles at Tipperary this weekend is now on the cards for Hurricane Ridge.
John Kiely, better known as a top national hunt trainer, gained his first Listed success when Toe The Line got a clear run up the inside to beat the Jim Bolger representative Altesse by a neck.
Owned by the family of Alan Lillingston, a top class amateur rider who passed away recently, Toe The Line has improved since winning her bumper. Kiely is unlikely to send her hurdling, but will map out a flat campaign for next term.