Weld team strikes early and Often at the Curragh
Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen doubled up in style at the Curragh as they got the Irish Flat turf season off to a great start by landing the card's two feature contests.
First to strike for the master of Rosewell House was Vote Often, which could be bound for the Irish 1,000 Guineas after outpointing British raider Odeliz in a thrilling climax to the Lodge Park Stud EBF Park Express Stakes.
Karl Burke's Odeliz looked set to take the Group Three prize back to Middleham after cruising to the lead, but Vote Often, last seen running away with a juvenile Naas maiden in October, knuckled down well to win by a head.
Weld said of his gutsy 10/1 winner: "She's a lovely tough filly and she won well at Naas last year. The key is she loves that ground. That's why we have her out early. She's beautifully bred and it's good to get her a Group Three win. She'll be considered for the Irish 1,000 Guineas."
The formidable trainer-jockey combination then struck in the fiercely competitive www.thetote.com Irish Lincolnshire with Stuccodor.
Sent off the 11/2 favourite following a couple of decent efforts over hurdles, he dug deep in the final throws to take the valuable prize by three-quarters of a length from the strong-travelling That's Plenty.
"He has been a very consistent horse for us and it was a very good ride from Pat," reflected Weld. "He was touched off by a stable companion (Northern Rocked) at Galway last year, so he deserved to win a big pot and he's effective on that ground. He'll go back over hurdles later in the year."
Wayne Lordan also struck twice on the day, initiating his brace aboard the Tommy Stack-trained Great Minds in the Trinity Racing Society Handicap.
The four-year-old got the better of last year's winner and fellow 9/2 joint-favourite Srucahan by two-and-a-half lengths with a potent finishing kick.
Stack's son and assistant, Fozzy, said: "He was a bit unlucky at Navan last year where he got mugged on the line and then we probably ran him back too quick at Redcar. He wants a dig in the ground and if we get a wet summer he'll be all right."
Lordan bagged his second winner of the afternoon as he punched out 7/1 shot Fly To The Moon to victory in the Johnny Murtagh Lifetime Achievement In Racing Madrid Handicap, beating Weld's Go For Goal by a length.
Veteran trainer Kevin Prendergast and Chris Hayes combined to clinch the first two-year-old race of the season, with 7/2 chance Beach Belle landing the opening Tally Ho Stud European Breeders Fund Maiden.
The juvenile is a daughter of Beach Bunny, which won three races for Prendergast and owner Lady O'Reilly and was also beaten a short head by Dar Re Mi in the Group One Pretty Polly Stakes five years ago.
"She's quite smart, although I don't know how she'll do when the ground dries out a bit," Prendergast said.
The JP McManus colours were carried to victory by Iveagh Gardens as the Charles O'Brien-trained 6/1 shot proved far too good in the six-furlong maiden.
"With a filly you are looking for black type and it's a possibility she'll come back to Leopardstown next week for the 1,000 Guineas Trial," said O'Brien.
"She's not really one I'd like to run back that quick, so I'll have a look at the programme and see what the options are. I think she has got a bright future."
Jim Bolger was unable to maintain his sequence in the opening juvenile contest, but the Coolcullen maestro still got off the mark as his Answered (2/1) took the concluding three-year-old maiden in the hands of Kevin Manning.
"I'm hoping he'll be back here in May (for the 2,000 Guineas) and we'll look at a Guineas trial next," the trainer revealed.