Seventh heaven for Famous Name
Famous Name last night bagged a seventh Group Three success as Dermot Weld's long-serving stalwart strolled to victory in the International Stakes at the Curragh.
With English invader Elusive Pimpernel a non-runner, the six-year-old was sent off at a generous-looking 4/5, given his record in this type of event when the ground is soft, and the persistent rain certainly helped his cause.
Pat Smullen's mount easily picked up the pace-setting Last Crusade passing the two-furlong pole and was quickly in command, winning with his head in his chest by six lengths from Jan Vermeer.
Famous Name also won this race in 2009, and Weld said: "That brings his total prize-money to over €1m. I'm very proud of him as he's such a model of consistency and his enthusiasm for racing is special.
"We'll see how the year goes on, but his main target will be to try to win a first Group One. He has come close a few times. I'll speak to Lord Grimthorpe (racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah) to see what plan we will have for the second half of the season."
Earlier, the opening Sycamore Lodge Equine Hospital Maiden went to the John Oxx-trained newcomer Sharestan under Johnny Murtagh. The son of Shamardal was backed from an early price of 5/2 into 11/10 favourite and battled well to lead inside the final furlong for a comfortable win over Opa Loca.
"Sharestan did well to win as he wasn't in a great position with other horses around him. However he will have learned plenty from that," said Oxx.
"We always liked him and while he was ready to run last year, he got an injury which held him up.
"There's a 10-furlong race at Fairyhouse in two weeks time for him now."
Oxx completed a quick double in the next race when his Sceal Nua landed the Today FM Handicap under in-form Niall McCullagh.
McCullagh, partnering his 14th winner of the season, produced the daughter of Iffraaj to lead under a furlong out before staying on well to defeat Negotiate.
"Sceal Nua won and was placed a few times in Britain for Richard Hannon, but we didn't know too much about her as it was her first run for me," Oxx explained afterwards.
"She did it nicely today, got the distance well and we'll find a fillies handicap somewhere next.
She is owned by Clodagh and Kevin Mitchell from Trim and they decided to move her to Ireland to see her run, but missed today as they had a family engagement."
Andy Oliver's Sportsmaster landed the Apprentice Derby in first-time blinkers under a fine ride from Ben Curtis.
The son of Ad Valorem was held up just off the pace early on and was produced to lead with a furlong and a half to go before proving two lengths too strong for Teajaybe.
"We just felt after his run the last day that blinkers would help him to concentrate as he's still quite an immature horse," revealed Oliver.
"We quite fancied him after his run last day and he stayed the trip and loved the ground.
"Hopefully, there will be plenty more improvement to come with him."
David Nagle recorded his third career winner when his Maarek landed the N Conlon & Sons BMW & Peugeot Handicap.
Ridden by Wayne Lordan, the son of Pivotal (backed into 11/2 favourite) got to the front close to home to deny Fiddle Player and Airspace.
"We've been looking for soft ground all year as he is a typical horse by Pivotal," explained Nagle who trains in Fethard, Co Tipperary.
"Hopefully, he's ok in the morning and if he is he'll take his chance in the Paddy Power Sprint here on Sunday. He is reasonably well drawn again on Sunday."
The concluding Silken Thomas Handicap went the way of the Jessica Harrington-trained Glamorous, which beat fellow 4/1 joint favourite Jumbo Rio by two lengths in the hands of Fran Berry.