Ballydoyle team bounce back with big-race double
It was a serene day at the Curragh, many of the locals watching the Lilywhites elsewhere, and there were few punters cheering home a surprise winner in the fillies' Group Two.
Elizabeth Browning stormed from last to first to cause a bit of a shock in what looked an underwhelming renewal of the Kilboy Estate Stakes. Seamus Heffernan sat last on the 12/1 shot, which quickened smartly to lead inside the final furlong and record a length-and-three-quarter success in the nine-furlong event.
It was a good day, so, for Aidan O'Brien, who recorded a big-race double, though the weekend's narrative was probably one of a little disappointment, given the defeat of Caravaggio in the July Cup on Saturday.
Speaking after the Kilboy, he said: "Seamus gave her a great ride. She's a filly we've always thought had a lot of ability and she missed a lot of lines.
"She's starting to get it together and on her last few runs she's starting to back up. It's a great race for fillies at this time of year. It fits in perfectly."
O'Brien snared the other big race when 5/2 joint-favourite Spirit Of Valor produced a smart front-running performance in the Minstrel. The Ballydoyle colt bounced back to form with a big run to finish second in the Jersey at Royal Ascot and confirmed that improvement in the Group Two.
Dutch Connection was the other market leader but faded in the closing stages to finish sixth.
"Over six or seven furlongs on fast ground he's obviously a real good horse," said O'Brien. "He had a very good run in Ascot. We tried him at a mile the first day and it was stretching him a bit. Then we came back on a mile on soft ground.
"There's no doubt he's improving. He's by War Front so he would like nice ground and the reason they do is because they are all fast horses."
The Michael Halford-trained Surrounding took the fillies' handicap under Shane Foley, the 9/1 shot prevailing after a smashing three-way go at the finish. She edged the verdict by a neck from the front-runner Stormy Belle, with New Terms another neck back.
"I'm delighted. She got struck into behind at Limerick and we lost a lot of time with her. She's a big genuine filly," said Halford.
"They went very steady and that probably helped her with her fitness. Shane was probably in the right place and gave her a nice ride.
"She's lightly-raced, saves her best for the track. She's very game and we'll probably run her in another handicap. Eventually we'll take a chance in a Listed race, the owners have all the family. They are terrific owners, so patient and never put me under pressure."
Zeftan simply loves the Curragh and recorded his fourth victory at the track in the Killashee Handicap. Adrian Keatley's charge had been fourth in the Ladies Derby on Saturday evening but appreciated the two-mile trip yesterday under Danny Sheehy.
The nursery saw a convincing winner in Golden Spell, appreciating the six furlongs when scoring as 11/4 favourite for John Murtagh and Colin Keane. Jim Bolger's Dawn Delivers (4/7f) and 7/2 chance Kamili, trained by Joseph O'Brien, enjoyed victory in the maidens.
At Sligo, Robbie Power was in the wars. The Gold Cup-winning rider faces a spell on the sidelines after suffering a heavy fall when Jacobs Well came to grief at the first flight in the two-mile maiden hurdle.
Turf Club medical officer Dr Adrian McGoldrick said: "Robbie has suffered soft tissue damage to his face and also has some dental injuries."
Mark Walsh, who has a cheekbone injury since a recent fall, is due to go for surgery tomorrow.
The Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly on October 1 could be the ultimate objective for Saturday's Irish Oaks heroine Enable, although she does not hold an entry in Europe's premier middle-distance race and would have to be supplemented.
"She had a little nick on her leg after the race, but that's all it was," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah.
"The King George is less than two weeks away so it may come a bit too soon, but obviously we'll have to look at it. If she doesn't go there she'll probably go for the Yorkshire Oaks."