Fame digs deep in Gold Cup audition
Fame And Glory continued his march towards the Royal Ascot Gold Cup with a workmanlike display in yesterday's Seamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown.
The son of Montjeu already has four Group One victories to his name, with the 2009 Irish Derby and last season's Coronation Cup his most notable triumphs to date.
Aidan O'Brien showed with his remarkable four-time Gold Cup hero Yeats that he is capable of turning top-drawer middle-distance horses into smart stayers, and Fame And Glory is favourite to follow in his former stablemate's hoof prints on June 16.
Sent off the 3/10 favourite for this first try at a mile and six furlongs, the entire travelled well throughout and jockey Jamie Spencer cut a confident figure in the saddle turning for home.
It looked as though he could pick up pacesetter Nebula Storm and returning Gold Cup hero Rite Of Passage whenever he wished, but while he wore down that pair, Vivacious Vivienne finished strongly down the outside.
Spencer had to get serious with his mount in the final strides and they managed to hold on by half a length. Dermot Weld's Rite Of Passage was making his first start since his Ascot triumph last June and ran a fine trial for this year's renewal, passing the post a creditable third.
O'Brien said: "He had to fight for it. They went a solid gallop and he is a courageous horse. Looking at him today you'd have to say he has a big chance of getting two miles.
"After that, you don't really know in the Gold Cup. He settled well and we look forward to Ascot with him now. We haven't trained such a classy horse for the Gold Cup before. You must remember he ran a stormer in last year's Arc where he was turned over a furlong out and finished fifth."
Weld declared himself pleased with Rite Of Passage's display, adding: "I'm very happy with that run, he ran a very creditable race."
O'Brien -- who revealed he will have four runners (led by Recital and Seville) in Saturday's Epsom Derby, with Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Roderic O'Connor set to wait for the French Derby -- also struck gold in the concluding 12-furlong maiden with 4/7 favourite Apache in the hands of the trainer's son, Joseph.
Johnny Murtagh unleashed Bewitched with a telling late charge to make a winning return to action in the Ballycorus Stakes. Trained by Charles O'Brien, the 6/1 chance was running in Coolmore's third colours and was making her first racecourse appearance since scoring at Ascot in October.
Group One-winning colt Zoffany looked as if he might score on his return when quickening to the front a furlong out, but once pulled wide out by Murtagh, Bewitched stormed home to score by a length and a quarter.
"I was surprised how she handled soft ground so well last year, so there was no worries about the quicker conditions here today," said O'Brien. "She might go for the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot now but that could be a very hot race."
Jim Bolger enjoyed a double, with Teolane taking the eye when running away with the juvenile maiden.
Sent off a well-supported 6/4 chance, the daughter of Bolger's unbeaten star Teofilo pulled clear of her rivals and came home five and a half lengths clear of odds-on favourite Secretary Of State.
Bolger also took the opening Derrinstown Stud Apprentice Handicap, with Ronan Whelan doing the steering on 8/1 shot Manaaqeb.