ON paper at least the Listed Silver Flash Stakes over a mile and two furlongs at the Curragh on Sunday was worthy of a higher status.
There were a few with big reputations involved, however it was the Jim Bolger-trained Trading Leather that showed the way home and in doing so booked his place in the Irish Derby at the end of the month.
A good second to Epsom Derby runner-up Libertarian in the Dante Stakes at York, the Teofilo colt also ran a corker in the Irish 2000 Guineas to finish third behind Magician after making most of the running.
Different tactics were adopted this time as rider Kevin Manning settled him just behind the leader, with Ansgar setting a strong pace. Little changed until well in the straight when Manning asked Trading Leather to quicken. The horse responded well, going away to land the spoils by three and a half lengths from Lines Of Battle with Kingston Jamaica third.
The big disappointment of the race was the much-heralded Zand from the John Oxx yard. Owned by the Aga Khan, the Zamindar colt was making his seasonal debut but failed to live up to home reports and finished a long way adrift of the principals.
In his post-race remarks Bolger revealed that his charge is very straightforward but needs good or better ground. If these conditions prevail in the Irish Derby then he could put it up to Ruler Of The World and Libertarian.
Lines of Battle, which was representing the Aidan O’Brien yard, had a fruitless trip to America for the Kentucky Derby but showed that the trip took nothing out of him and will be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses.
Bolger, who reported beaten Epsom Derby favourite Dawn Approach to be in fine fettle, initiated a double when Freedom Square justified favouritism in the opening two-year-old maiden over six furlongs.
A beaten favourite over seven furlongs at Gowran Park on his previous appearance the Lawman colt broke smartly and was never headed as he came home a length and a half to the good over the outsider Shining Emerald.
There were plenty of talking horses in this race and the market reflected as much, so a couple of winners should emerge from it. Bred by the trainer and racing in the colours of his wife Jackie, Freedom Square is likely to be upped in grade but should be able to handle it, with the Railway Stakes a possibility.
Maggie Dalton failed by a length to complete a three-timer for Bolger and Manning in the 67-89 handicap over a mile and a half. A winner over the course on her seasonal debut last month, the daughter of Mr Greeley was easy to back. Another Oxx runner, Kerisa, was the one that the punters went for but she had to be content with third place.
Shouldering a hefty 9st 10lb Maggie Dalton travelled well throughout the race and challenged at the furlong marker, but was unable to find as much as the Kevin Prendergast-trained winner Majenta.
Willie Mullins was absent from the meeting - he was on duty at Auteuil for the French Champion Hurdle - but the trainer still had a rare flat win when Levanto and Johnnie Murtagh captured the mile and a half maiden for three-year-olds and upwards.
Starting favourite, Levanto hit the front a furlong from home and held the late surge of Zarkiyr by a short head. A consistent filly, the winner was the second winner of the afternoon for Lawman who, enjoying a tremendous season, stands at Ballylinch Stud near Thomastown under the stewardship of John O’Connor.
David Wachman, whose Galileo Rock finished a creditable third in the Derby at Epsom and is another on course for the Irish equivalent, was on the mark when Royal Empress scored a deserved victory in the six furlong maiden.
Having been placed at Group Three level as a juvenile the Holy Roman Emperor filly looked certain to shed her maiden status early on this season and so it proved with justified strong market support.
Up with the pace from flagfall Royal Empress took over a couple of furlongs out. With Wayne Lordan just using hands and heels they hit the wire two and a quarter lengths the good from the Aidan O’Brien runner Illustrate.
Declan McDonagh, who took over from Johnnie Murtagh as the retained jockey to the Aga Khan this season, was in double form. He opened his account when Regal Power landed the 61-79 six furlong handicap, then donned the Aga Khan silks to score a comfortable success on Dabadiyan in the mile and four maiden.
This was a good staying performance by the three-year-old, who improves with every outing.