'Legend' Brackan crowns Lyons double
Naas hosting the first Flat meet of the term might have been a little different but there is nothing novel about Ger Lyons training winners and he snared the feature as part of a fine double.
Brendan Brackan, which has been on the go since winning on his debut in 2012, provided Gary Carroll with a big-race win in the Tote Irish Lincolnshire on a cool spring day, the 16/1 chance holding off Aussie Valentine, which finished second in the race for the third year running.
Lyons conceded that Brendan Brackan, winner of four stakes races, was not the first string on the day but the tacky terrain perhaps proved more to his liking than stablemate Sea Wolf, which ran a fine race in third.
"We fancied Sea Wolf more but you can't beat class," Lyons said. "He's been an absolute legend for the yard and hopefully he can win another stakes race this year.
"I'm delighted for Gary as he's a big part of the team. He got a lovely split on the inner and he just took off.
"I have 90 boxes and they are all full. Whether or not they will be full in June is another matter as I'm more about quality than quantity. I have been in awe of Gordon Elliott and what he's been doing all winter, and the one thing I have learned from him is to run them."
Lyons also struck with Gymkhana in the sprint handicap, the 12/1 shot scoring readily for Colin Keane, while Aidan O'Brien too realised an excellent double.
Ballydoyle's horses are often a little behind at this stage of the year but both Alphabet and Orderofthegarter produced performances under the trainer's daughter Ana that were extremely pleasing on the eye.
Alphabet (7/1), recruited from David Wachman, never saw another foe in her five-and-a-half-length rout, while Orderofthegarter announced himself as a Classic-race dark horse with an 11-length win in the finale at 11/4.
O'Brien, who outlined a plan for unbeaten three-year-old Caravaggio that will involve a seasonal return at Dundalk, said: "David liked Alphabet last year and we have about seven that he trained last year. She seems to handle any ground.
"Orderofthegarter was beaten at Leopardstown by one of our own, Cliffs Of Moher, last year but my son Donnacha got off him and said he loved him. He's a well-bred horse and we could go to a Guineas trial at Leopardstown."
The legendary trainer added that his two-year-olds would likely not run until Dundalk's meeting on April 12, the one in which Caravaggio scored on his debut 12 months ago.
Galway-born rider Graham Lee is rarely seen in his homeland. Over 25 years ago he had his first ride at Naas and the Grand National-winning rider, who reverted to the Flat relatively late in life, took the Group Three Park Express aboard Czabo.
The 8/1 chance, which is trained by Mick Channon, is part-owned by David Wachman. She ground it out to edge the O'Brien-trained favourite, Somehow.
Mick Channon junior said: "We took her to Saint-Cloud a few weeks ago but she was too free for the first half a mile and it was a complete wasted effort. I just spoke to David Wachman and he said it was a great prep run taking her all the way to Paris.
"She's done it very nicely, and we had fitness on our side and that helped. We have a fairly moderate band of broodmares but (sire Sixties Icon) has improved them all. We wanted to get her going early."
Kevin Prendergast produced Pivotal filly Moonlight Bay to win the opener (4/1), part of a double for rider Chris Hayes, whose alliance with rookie trainer Fozzy Stack was responsible for Gino Severini winning the Madrid Handicap.
Backed into 8/1 from 12/1, the Fastnet Rock gelding looked in difficulty a long way out but showed abundant stamina to score going away. Stack's family was present to welcome in the winner, including his father and former trainer ,Tommy.
Stack said: "That's a monkey off the back. He had been working well and is a stronger horse this year. He'll get a mile and a quarter. It's not a bad start."
It was a quiet day for two powerhouse stables, that of Dermot Weld and Jim Bolger, but O'Brien striking with a double already is ominous for his rivals.
"You'd have to be very happy with that," he said, and the polished riding of his daughter Ana is something we will see plenty of in 2017.