The useful-looking Legatissimo was a good winner of the Victor McCalmont Memorial Stakes, the feature event at Gowran Park on Sunday.
A smart juvenile last season the David Wachman-trained daughter of Danehill Dancer was a shade disappointing on her seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown, but she did not handle the testing ground too well.
Kilkenny conditions here were much more to her liking and connections were confident of a big run in spite of the presence of the odds-on favourite Carla Bianca.
The latter became upset in the stalls which might have had some bearing on her poor display but take nothing away from Legatissimo who came from off the pace to lead inside the two furlong marker and run on well to beat the Aidan O’Brien runner Wedding Vow by three and a quarter lengths.
In his post race remarks Wachman revealed that his charge has strengthened up well over the Winter and will pay her way this term. There are plenty of options for her, including the Irish 1,000 Guineas. Coming from the family of Fame And Glory, a step up in trip would not inconvenience her too greatly.
Local handler Jim Bolger got the meeting off to a flying start as far as his loyal band of followers were concerned when he saddled Aerialist to swoop late under Kevin Manning and land the opening seven furlong maiden.
Hit the Crossbar
Home-bred by Bolger and owned by his wife Jackie, the Sea The Stars colt hit the crossbar a few times - it was strange to see him still a maiden at the age of four.
Never too far out of his ground, Aerialist came for his race a furlong or so out. After a good scrap with Ardhoomey he shaded the verdict by a head, with just half a length back to the favourite Tadaany in third place. With three older horses in the field against the three-year-olds this wasn’t an easy race to sum up, but the winner showed plenty of resolve when push came to shove and is in the right hands to add to this success.
Former jockey Johnny Murtagh is making a fine fist of his new career as a trainer and was on the mark again when Duchess Andorra turned over the Dermot Weld-trained favourite Sparkle Factor in the seven furlong 75-94 fillies handicap.
Formerly under the care of the now-retired Joanna Morgan, the four-year-old had her first outing for Murtagh and was easy enough to back. Always in the firing line, Duchess Andorra took a definite advantage at the two furlong marker from where she found plenty to cross the line two and a quarter lengths ahead of Sparkle Factor.
There was plenty to like about this display. Although the winner is bound to get a hike in the weights, she should be competitive in bigger assignments.
Although he is very tall for a flat jockey Conor King is managing his weight well. One of the most talented apprentices seen in recent times, he caused an 18/1 upset when guiding Hot Sauce to a workmanlike success over the odds-on favourite in the mile and a furlong fillies maiden.
Coming with a well-timed challenge in the straight, Hot Sauce responded well to the urgings of King to lead inside the last furlong and take the money by a length and a quarter. Clearly held in high regard by her astute trainer John Murphy, the winner made only one appearance as a juvenile but that was in a Listed race where she failed to feature.
She went in to many a notebook when finishing fourth in dreadful conditions at Cork on her reappearance, but clearly appreciated the better ground. It will be interesting to see how she progresses from here.
The master of Rosewell House Dermot Weld has made a blistering start to the season, recording a four-timer at the most recent meeting at the venue but, after saddling three beaten favourites, he had to wait until the last race on the card to open his account when Zafilani did the business under Pat Smullen.
Although only three went to post it was an intriguing conditions contest over a mile and a furlong, with nothing separating the trio in the betting market. Smullen took the bull by the horns from an early stage aboard Zafilani, sending him into the lead, but Joseph O’Brien loomed large on the horizion with Royal Navy Ship in the straight. In spite of not getting the clearest of runs, O’Brien’s horse only went under by half a length.
Speaking after the race Weld said that his charge has now won his maiden as well as a conditions contest, so the next step is must be at Listed level. He is a good ground horse and he will have plenty of opportunities to display his wares in the coming months.