Lilbourne proves too hot for rivals
Richard Hannon's Lilbourne Lad continued his rise through the juvenile ranks with a gritty display in the Dubai Duty Free Railway Stakes at The Curragh yesterday.
Hannon is well known for his ability to train two-year-olds, but connections admitted this particular youngster does not burn up the Herridge gallops quite as strongly as some of his stable companions.
It is racecourse results that count, however, and the Naas Listed race winner showed he was up to Pattern class in a contest that has been won by the likes of Rock Of Gibraltar and George Washington since the turn of the century.
The 9/4 chance travelled strongly next to the rail in the hands of Richard Hughes as Tough As Nails, the 15/8 favourite, emerged as the only serious threat in the last of the six furlongs. The two of them settled down to fight it out but Lilbourne Lad got the better of the argument by three-quarters of a length.
The stewards called an inquiry after Lilbourne Lad and Tough As Nails got close inside the final 200 yards, but the placings remained unaltered.
Aidan O'Brien has an astonishing record in the Group Two contest, having saddled 10 of the last 12 winners, but his two representatives -- Choir and Vault -- could not make their presence felt.
Victor Chandler cut Lilbourne Lad to 25/1 (from 33/1) for next year's 2,000 Guineas, while Paddy Power are as short as 16s. Assistant trainer Richard Hannon Jnr said: "Lilbourne Lad is a real star and we're very pleased. The last furlong looked like slow motion but Lilbourne kept pulling out a bit more. We'll either come back here for the National Stakes or go for the Prix Morny at Deauville next."
Hughes added: "To be honest, we thought he was nice, but no more than that."
Invincible Ash (9/2) flew home to deny the British contingent in the Woodies DIY Sapphire Stakes.
The David Nicholls-trained Inxile was a spent force by halfway as Tim Easterby's Hamish McGonagall travelled into the lead in the style of a likely winner. However, he began to tread water inside the final furlong and Invincible Ash, the Mick Halford-trained mare, mowed him down under Gary Carroll to get up by a length.
Halford said: "I thought they'd go very fast and told Gary to ride her like a non-trier in the early stages. In the end, they flew in front and Gary gave her a peach of a ride.
"I thought she was in good form but wasn't too confident beforehand -- and especially on Friday when I saw all the rain. However, the sun on her back and the drying ground helped considerably and she deserved today's win."
O'Brien saddled a one-two in the Dubai Duty Free Double Millionaire EBF Maiden, with After just getting up to deny stable companion Taigan.
Ryan Moore rode a patient race on 100/30 chance After, but she quickened up well when it mattered to score by a head. O'Brien said: "We thought After was a nice filly, but she disappointed at Tipperary the last day and we still don't know whether it was the trip or the ground being too fast that beat her."
O'Brien then landed the Irish Derby with Treasure Beach, before claiming his second treble in as many days as Moore guided Pirateer to success in the Dubai Duty Free Full Of Surprises Celebration Stakes.
The Cecil Ross-trained Six Of Hearts was triumphant in the 28-runner Paddy Power Sprint. Sam James was content to bide his time on the 16/1 shot and the gaps came at just the right moment as he quickened up to lead close home and beat Cheviot.
Jessica Harrington's Gimli's Rock (7/1) was much too good for his rivals in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise EBF Handicap, scoring by three lengths under Fran Berry.
"He'll go for the Galway Hurdle now," said Harrington. The concluding Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship Handicap went to Joanna Morgan's 14/1 shot Moran Gra.