CHAMPION jockey Michael Kinane swooped late to conquer aboard the lone English raider Royal Rebel which claimed the scalp of odds-on favourite...
CHAMPION jockey Michael Kinane swooped late to conquer aboard the lone English raider Royal Rebel which claimed the scalp of odds-on favourite Enzeli in a gripping finish to the Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown yesterday evening.
A course and distance winner last August for leading English owner Peter Savill, Royal Rebel delighted his Yorkshire trainer Mark Johnston when bouncing back to winning ways under an inspired drive from Kinane.
Enzeli, which had preceded his famous Ascot Gold Cup triumph last June by taking the Saval Beg Stakes convincingly last term, found the combination of conceding weight all round and Kinane's grim determination just too much to cope with as he went down by a whisker.
Odds on to triumph in this Listed affair again, Enzeli had to be driven by Johnny Murtagh to get past his pacemaker Katiykha approaching the final furlong, yet still looked a winner until Kinane pounced in full flight aboard the blinkered English runner.
``This is Royal Rebel's third time to run at Leopardstown, and as he was very disappointing on his first start this season at Ascot we decided to put the blinkers back on and hope a return to Leopardstown would work. It was a big help having Michael Kinane on board,'' remarked winning trainer Johnston.
Johnny Murtagh believes Enzeli will come on fitness-wise for the outing, a view shared by trainer John Oxx who said: ``He is very lazy at home and this was a tougher assignment than twelve months ago. Let us hope all goes well in the next couple of weeks before he goes back to Ascot.''
Kinane took the riding honours of the session with a double initiated when Aidan O'Brien's newcomer Little Firefly made an impressive debut in the Roundwood Maiden confined to fillies.
The favourite drifted alarmingly in the betting to 13/8 and better in places, as Jim Bolger's eventual runner-up Marsh Harrier attracted support along with the experienced Alexander Express.
Marsh Harrier struck the front into the final furlong before Kinane got Little Firefly into overdrive to sweep clear in the final 100 yards in the style of a horse that should be followed profitably as the season goes on.
``She went asleep in the stalls, but Michael educated her and he was impressed with the way she quickened up to win. She could be very good later on in the season in something like the Moyglare Stud Stakes,'' said winning trainer O'Brien.
O'Brien reported that the favourite Giants Causeway in good form for Saturday's Entenmann's Irish 2,000 Guineas from which stable companion Bach will now be an absentee.
``Bach won't be running at The Curragh as we have decided to go to France instead on Sunday week for the Prix Jean Prat over nine furlongs on the French Derby card at Chantilly,'' he said.
Tipperary-born Kinane could further whittle away Pat Smullen's lead at the head of the jockeys table at Clonmel this evening when he partners recent winner Leopard Rock for Tony Mullins in the opener before course winner Larifarri goes for the Cahir Handicap on behalf of Tramore trainer John Roche.