Wednesday 18 January 2017

Classy Covert Love storms to Oaks glory for Palmer

Published 19/07/2015 | 02:30

Pat Smullen celebrates after riding Stepper Point to victory in the Invincible Spirit Sapphire Stakes during day one of the Darley Irish Oaks Weekend at The Curragh Racecourse, Kildare.
Pat Smullen celebrates after riding Stepper Point to victory in the Invincible Spirit Sapphire Stakes during day one of the Darley Irish Oaks Weekend at The Curragh Racecourse, Kildare.

Covert Love gave Newmarket trainer Hugo Palmer an early wedding present with his first Classic triumph in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh.

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Pat Smullen brought the daughter of Azamour to head long-time leader Together Forever a furlong from home and storm to victory by a length and three-quarters.

Together Forever roared off in front and was at least eight lengths clear at one stage. Smullen decided not to give Aidan O'Brien's charge too much rope and settled his filly in second.

It proved a wise move as Covert Love (7/1), which was supplemented for the race, got first run on her rivals and made off to take her winning run to four.

She won readily from Jack Naylor, with 15/8 favourite Curvy a head away third.

"I'm to be married next Saturday so this is the last time I can say this is the best day of my life," said Palmer. "I'm terrified I'll wake up and find myself still in my bed in Newmarket.

"There's still time to put her in the St Leger. We might wait and see what the weather does and maybe think about the Yorkshire Oaks. She's a lightly-raced young filly. Her biggest days could well be ahead of her."

Smullen added: "We were confident the filly would stay. Her stamina was unbelievable. There's more improvement in her. It's great to win a Classic here on your home track."

Stepper Point (6/1) returned to his best with a battling victory in the Invincible Spirit Sapphire Stakes. William Muir's seasoned sprinter had been out of luck since winning the Flying Five over this course and distance last September but hit back with a neck call over favourite Mecca's Angel.

Smullen, who also struck earlier on the card with Have A Nice Day, said: "All he had to do was come back to his old form. I thought we'd put it up to the favourite and it worked out."

Final Frontier (5/6 favourite) followed up his debut success when surviving a stewards' inquiry to claim Group Three honours in the Jebel Ali Racecourse & Stables Anglesey Stakes. Jessica Harrington's colt just kept the Ger Lyons-trained Miss Katie Mae at bay by a neck under Shane Foley as the pair came close together in the closing stages. "He'll definitely step up to seven now and you'd imagine he'll go for the National Stakes here," said Harrington.

Aidan O'Brien's Shogun (6/4 favourite) looked a thoroughbred of potential after skipping two-and-a-quarter lengths clear in the Darley EBF Maiden under the trainer's son Joseph.

"He was a complete baby the first day and didn't know what was going on," said the Ballydoyle handler. "I'd say he's very smart. He could step into the Futurity and those races. He's a big, mature horse."

Andrea Atzeni delivered Stroll Patrol (20/1) with an undeniable late run on the stands rail to land the evoke.ie Sprint Handicap by three-quarters of a length from Your Pal Tal.

"She came with a big reputation earlier in the year but it hadn't quite happened for her," said trainer Johnny Murtagh. "Andrea gave her a lovely ride and said she felt like a different filly. She probably likes the warmer weather."

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