LOCAL trainer Jim Bolger rewarded his huge army of followers when Priomhbhean took the McEnery Cup at Gowran Park on Wednesday evening, landing a nice touch in the process.
Backed from 12/1 and higher in places for the mile and a half contest the daughter of Galileo held a huge advantage at the halfway point but the pack began to close heading for the home turn. The Jessica Harrington runner Steps To Freedom, which was partnered by up-and-coming Shane Foley, joined issue with Priomhbhean a furlong and a half out but jockey Kevin Manning still had a little up his sleeve and his mount found most in the closing stages to land the spoils by half a length.
A four-time winner last season over shorter distances Priomhbhean failed to trouble the judge in any of her four appearances this term but the vibes were that she was returning to form. Bolger intimated post-race that he expects the handicapper to raise her in the weights for this success. The plan now is to get some black-type for her before the end of the year which would considerably enhance her value as a broodmare.
Jessica Harrington didn’t have to wait long for compensation. She visited the winner’s enclosure in the next race when Bible Belt took the Listed Hurry Harriet Stakes, a race held in memory of the 1973 Champion Stakes winner which was trained by the late Paddy Mullins.
Easy to back in this extended mile and a furlong race, the daughter of Big Bad Bob was not rushed in the early stages as the Bolger runner Hurricane Havoc cut out the pace. She still had plenty to do turning to face the judge but quickened up in impressive fashion, winning by five lengths from Hurricane Havoc.
The winning trainer revealed that her stable was suffering from a bout of seconditis so this success was very welcome. Her charge is well entered up, added Harrington, who will chat to the owners before making future plans. The result was also a great fillip to the career of Shane Foley. Attached to the Mick Halford yard he has been riding in great form this season and is highly regarded by owners and trainers alike.
There was a fair bit of trouble before the furlong marker when the Keegan Latham ridden One Spirit seemed short of room and veered to her left causing interference to the favourite look At Me as well as Enchanted Evening. After viewing the video of the race the stewards handed Keegan a two day ban for careless riding.
Racing opened with a victory for the father-and-son team of Aidan and Joseph O’Brien when Daddy Longlegs ran out a comfortable winner of the seven furlong juvenile maiden. The American-bred son of Scot Daddy had to be withdrawn when refusing to load at Leopardstown the previous week but he was the perfect gentleman here.
Given plenty of time to find his feet he finished like an express train to lead inside the final furlong and win by a length and a half from Outback. Daddy Longlegs was following in the footsteps of some famous Ballydoyle winners like Treasure Beach and Frozen Fire, so it will be interesting to see where he fits in the stables plans for the future.
John Oxx, whose late father of the same name began his career at nearby Mount Juliet and in fact played hurling for Thomastown, has saddled many high profile winners at Gowran over the years. He was on the mark again when Dubawi Star ran out a workmanlike winner of the mile and a furlong handicap in the hands of Niall McCullagh.
Making his handicap debut and sporting first time cheekpieces, the Dubawi colt was never out of the leading group. He took over before the straight and was not unduly perturbed, taking the money by three lengths from the Bolger representative Tobar Na Gaoise. Oxx said that Dubawi Star, which was a maiden winner on the all
weather track at Dundalk back in November, was attempting the trip for the first time. The slight ease in the ground was a help, but he is not going to be easy to place.
Pat Smullen looks well on his way to retain his jockeys title and he went a step nearer to that goal when partnering Along Came Casey to a facile success in the mile and a furlong fillies maiden. An expensive failure at the Galway festival, the daughter of Oratorio was always an odds-on chance. After chasing the leaders she took the lead entering the last furlong, hitting the wire a length and a half to the good over yet another Jim Bolger runner Alabelle.
Carrick-on-Suir trainer Pat Flynn was on hand to greet Legendary Times after the five-year-old comfortably took the Apprentice handicap. Recently purchased by Irish soccer international John O’Shea Legendary Times was slow out of stalls, but made eye-catching progress to take it up in the straight before beating Fairy Wing by a comfortable two and a half lengths.