Local and neighbouring stables were in flying form at Gowran Park, providing four of the seven winners for Wednesday’s card.
Leading the way was Jane Foley, who celebrated her birthday by saddling Surreal to take the seven furlong maiden for three-year-olds and upwards.
A consistent, if luckless, performer the daughter of Shamardal went close to shedding her maiden tag at Wexford and was well supported as she finally opened her account. Always up with the pace, Surreal edged clear in the straight and went away inside the final furlong to win by four and a half lengths from Pastiches.
Owned by the trainer’s husband Joe, who runs the highly successful Ballyhane Stud near Leighlinbridge, the winner will now go handicapping. She is a tough a genuine animal and if the handicapper does not crucify her she is capable of scoring again.
Eoin Doyle got his name on the scoresheet when Days Ahead landed the mile and a half 47-65 handicap after a good scrap with Mahrajaan and Juara. Easy to back at 10/1 the six-year-old, which had scored twice on the all-weather earlier in the year, was given a patient ride by Joseph O’Brien and came from well off the pace turning to face the judge.
At this point there were several horses in with chances but Days Ahead got a nice run up the inside the lead well inside the final furlong before hitting the wire half a length to the good from Mahrajaan with a similar distance back to Juara in third place. Owned by the trainer’s mother Pauline, Days Ahead has been a good servant to connections. Winning for the fourth time on the level, he will now head to Listowel to contest a handicap chase.
This was the second leg of a double for O’Brien who had earlier teamed up with his father Aidan to land the mile and four 66-94 handicap courtesy of Heirloom. Sporting cheekpieces, the Dansili colt was niggled along turning for home but responded well to swoop late and take the money by a length from the rank outsider Todd.
A horse with low enough mileage on the clock, Heirloom did his job well. It would come as no surprise to see him upped in class for his next outing.
Dermot Weld was on hand to greet Grecian Tiger after he put in a battling performance to land the mile and six maiden in the hands of Pat Smullen. A more than useful bumper horse, the son of Tiger Hill was sent to post an odds-on favourite in his first outing under flat rules. Smullen made every post a winning one and although the Aidan O’Brien runner Egyptian Warrior provided him with a serious examination, Tiger Cry proved up to the challenge and prevailed by half a length.
The winning trainer told me that he was pleased by the display as his charge, whose attitude had been questionable in the past, had to work for his victory. He has no firm plans for the four-year-old, but a career over hurdles must be high on the agenda.
David Wachman, who began his training career just across the border at South Lodge before moving to Longfield Stud, was on the mark again when Ruler Of France took the seven furlong nursery.
After a couple of promising early season efforts the Holy Roman Emperor gelding was given a break but fared poorly the previous week at Killarney. The fitting of a visor had the desired effect as he was always up with the pace, hitting the front inside the last furlong before winning by half a length from Lady Ultra.
Listowel now beckons for the winner and a tilt at the big nursery there. If he shows the same level of form he will give a good account of himself.
Thursday proved to be a red letter day in the life of 23-year-old Kilmoganny amateur Katie O’Farrell, who rode the first winner of her career when getting Strain Of Fame home in a driving finish to the two mile and four handicap hurdle.
After a false start Strain Of Fame was settled well off the pace but began to take close order going across the top of the hill on the final circuit. Hitting the front, the seven-year-old jumped the last well and with Katie keeping him up to his work beat John Cullen and Hello Louie by half a length.
This was a real family success as the winner is trainer by the rider’s father Seamus, but Katie gave most of the credit to her mother Cathy. Racing is in the O’Farrell blood - Seamus had owned and trained many good horses down through the years while Katie follows in the footsteps of her brothers James and Conor, who have ridden plenty of winners.