Sunday 24 September 2017

Oliver's bargain buys

Chris McGrath

Trainers must cut their cloth according to their means -- thus, even that astounding, seventh consecutive Irish Derby for Aidan O'Brien was not necessarily the standout achievement at the Curragh last weekend.

Andrew Oliver, a young trainer putting Tyrone on the Flat racing map, had a runner in both juvenile Group races at the meeting.

On Saturday, "a four-grand colt" named Tiger Stripes finished third in the Railway Stakes. The next day, Sendmylovetorose won a Group Three prize for fillies. Oliver found her for just £5,000 (€6,220) at Doncaster last autumn.

"She obviously didn't tick all the boxes for every agent," he said yesterday. "But her conformation was fine -- and she was bred to run. As the old adage says, a horse doesn't know what it costs."

If his words evoke Mark Johnston, it is no coincidence. Oliver, who likewise set out by qualifying as a vet, learnt the ropes as assistant to Johnston before returning to set up a yard on the family farm in Tyrone.

"For a trainer, Ireland is perhaps as competitive as anywhere in the world, both in the quality of the horses and the horsemen," he said.

"But I enjoy that. If you win a Curragh maiden, you have a good horse -- and you've done your job well, no argument."

It must have been hard to remain so positive when Sendmylovetorose, seeking a breakthrough success for her stable at Royal Ascot, became trapped under the stalls.

"It came as a complete shock," Oliver said. "At home she's a placid, stoical filly, with no quirks at all. We got her home and looked her over. Physically, she seemed fine, but you couldn't know what the psychological scars might be. So, really, things could not have worked out sweeter on Sunday -- it was great to repair the situation."

On her only previous start, Sendmylovetorose had won a Navan maiden by five-and-a-half lengths. One option now is the Cherry Hinton Stakes at Newmarket, but she may yet be supplemented to the Phoenix Stakes back at the Curragh. A Group One podium place would be an extraordinary dividend, indeed, from such a cheap yearling.

Elsewhere, Hughie Morrison's Shirocco Star could continue what has already been a productive season in the Darley Irish Oaks at The Curragh on July 22. Although the filly has not won this season, she was placed in an Oaks trial at Newbury and was beaten just a neck by Was in the Classic at Epsom.

She ran with great credit again on her most recent start when third behind Princess Highway in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot. "We are just feeling our way towards the Irish Oaks," said Morrison. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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