O'Brien's double ensures three share apprentice title
IN an extraordinary finish to the Irish apprentices title, Joseph O'Brien rode a double at Dundalk last night to ensure a three-way share of the championship with Ben Curtis and outgoing title-holder Gary Carroll.
O'Brien Jnr, who started the day two behind his rivals, rode his brace early on, with both winners trained by his father Aidan, who received his champion trainer's award on the night.
The Ballydoyle teenager's first success came when he made all the running on second favourite Empowering in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden. O'Brien's second winner came courtesy of Regent Street, which justified prohibitive odds in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.
There was some drama to the victory as the 2/5 hotpot edged left under pressure inside the final furlong towards Missy O'Gwaun, which was making no real impression at the time.
Regent Street had a length to spare over Watch The Birdie at the line, with Missy O'Gwaun another half length back in third. The placings were confirmed after a stewards' enquiry.
But the drama wasn't finished there. All three apprentices had rides in the final race and Gary Carroll looked set for victory aboard Dark Prospect, but he was narrowly denied by Wayne Lordan's late flourish on Denny Crane, which meant a triple dead-heat for the junior crown for the very first time.
Former Ballydoyle stable jockey Johnny Murtagh made a successful return when guiding Sports Casual to a convincing victory in division one of the Crowne Plaza Leading Jockey & Trainer Championship Handicap.
Last season's champion jockey gave the 9/2 favourite a fine waiting ride and the seven-year-old arrived full of running in the straight, leading over a furlong out to beat Bricks And Porter.
Meanwhile, Ed Dunlop is philosophical about the stall allotted to Snow Fairy in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin tomorrow.
The dual Oaks heroine and recent winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup in Japan is drawn towards the outside in eight of the 18 runners. However, Dunlop admits it could be worse, and that at least the strongly fancied French challenger, Vision D'Etat, is in a similar position.
"It is only an okay draw but we can't do much about it. You never want to be pushed too wide around this track but we have the favourite (Vision D'Etat) next door to us and it could have been a lot worse," the Newmarket trainer stated.
"I am happy with the ground and the filly seems in terrific form but there are no plans for Ryan (Moore) to sit on her before the big day.
"He jumped straight aboard in Japan and that worked a treat and, in any event, he knows Snow Fairy well enough by now, so we are set fair and ready to rumble. It is a very competitive race but we will give it our best shot."