The Exceed And Excel colt Excelebration was the star of the show at the Curragh on Sunday. Aidan O’Brien’s charge turned the Group Three Gladness Stakes over seven furlongs into a procession and, in doing so, earned a tilt at Frankel in next month’s JLT Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.
Having already suffered three defeats to Henry Cecil’s wonder horse Excelebration, having his first outing for Ballydoyle trainer O’Brien, looks to have strengthened up this season. Sunday’s race was little more than a routine workout for the four-year-old. He arrived cantering inside the two furlong marker and with the trainer’s son Joseph looking around for dangers the duo beat the Dermot Weld runner Croisultan by three and a half lengths.
Make no mistake but this is a serious animal. If there are cracks in Frankel’s armoury after his training setback then Excelebration will expose them.
O’Brien got the meeting off to a flying start when Infanta Branca justified cramped odds to land the opening juvenile maiden over five furlongs and so give freshman sire Henrythenavigator his first winner with his very first runner.
Showing the benefit of a promising outing at Cork, Infanta Branca broke smartly and made every post a winning one but she had to be roused along inside the final furlong to beat the Jim Bolger runner Leitir Mor by half a length.
While the form of this race is difficult to assess, the winner is obviously well thought of. O’Brien has mentioned her in terms of a Queen Mary filly come Royal Ascot.
Ran out of steam
On paper at least Nephrite had only to turn up to land the listed seven furlong Loughbrown Stakes for the Ballydoyle yard but, after flattering a furlong or so out, ran out of steam and had to be content with third place behind stable companion Requisition and Coolnagree.
Although Nephrite was an odds-on favourite there was plenty of money available for Requisition. Those in the know were rubbing their hands in glee as the son of Invincible Spirit made most of the running under Shamie Heffernan to defeat Coolnagree by a length and three-parts.
A winner over a mile at Galway last season, Requisition showed that he is going to be a force over this trip again this term. Although he is not entered in either the Newmarket or Curragh 2000 Guineas there are plenty of top class races available to him.
In his post race remarks O’Brien revealed that Nephrite just got tired in the soft ground. He is a good actioned colt with a lot of speed, so getting a mile might be just beyond him.
Blinkers seems to have worked the oracle for Chrysanthemum, who landed her second race from as many starts this season. She made the most of the running to capture the mile and two Listed Alleged Stakes in the hands of Wayne Lordan.
Keeping up the fine start to the season for trainer David Wachman the daughter of Danehill Dancer is not considered to be a front runner, but circumstances decreed that she had to make it. The challengers were queuing up behind half-way up the straight but she found plenty when it was required and in the end she did it with a little in hand.
Wachman revealed post-race that he will play it by ear for his charge, but she will have many options in the coming months.
John Oxx saddled no less than five in the mile and two maiden for three-year-olds. He took the first two places with Aklan and Ebazan.
A 16/1 chance, Aklan came from well off the pace to lead two furlongs or so out and battle well to touch off the longtime leader Ebazan by a short head. Oxx said that finding suitable maidens at this trip is very difficult - he could have run at least 10 horses in the race.
The Prendergast family have carved their named in pride over this hallowed circuit. It was good to see Kevin record a popular victory when Ansaab scored a narrow success in the mile and a quarter 65-85 handicap under stable jockey Declan McDonagh.
Well supported, the Cape Cross gelding raced just off the pace early on. McDonagh was hard at work at the furlong pole but his mount responded well to lead almost in the shadow of the post and take the money by three-parts of a length at the expense of Sharlam.
It was a weekend to remember for the O’Farrell family as they marked an important achievement in racing.
Young jockey Conor O’Farrell rode out his claim in style, leading Diamonds Return to victory at Wincanton over the weekend. The horse is trained by Dvid Pipe, who reached the 100-winner mark for the season. For good measure, the horse was bred in Kilkenny by Conor’s father Seamus.
The result marked another milestone in the life of Kilmoganny native O’Farrell. He rode in his first Grand National recently, finishing 10th aboard Swing Bill at Aintree.