Smullen catches eye on course with impressive treble
Day two of the pre-Galway racing festival at Wexford saw a significant treble for Pat Smullen on a tricky card brightened up by ladies' day, Littlewoods Ireland, Amanda Brunker and Margaret Heffernan. With an all-flat card on offer the ground - good, good to firm in places - seemed to race a little on the dead side having been watered during the week.
This may have been the reason as to why only one winning favourite was recorded, the even money chance 'Bogardus', but all bar one of the other six winners were well supported, giving some respite.
With this race meeting being the only and last one before the start of the Galway Festival, it had all the look and feel of a mid-week industry day, with a small enough crowd for a Saturday fixture, no live link to At The Races, the competition of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth meeting at Ascot, and constant chatter about the upcoming hurling match between Wexford and Limerick all taking the focus off the racing at Bettyville.
Pat Smullen was the star turn as the former Irish Champion Flat jockey recorded a fine treble with wins on 'Empress Toorah', 'Renown' and 'Hunting Tower'. Smullen, the long-time stable jockey to Dermot Weld, is making a bold bid to regain that jockey's title from his wife's nephew, Joseph O'Brien, with this treble putting a gap of 14 winners between Smullen and the reigning champion.
It's only the end of July so there are a lot of fixtures between now and the end of the season and with a significant number of two-year-olds still to run from Ballydoyle, Smullen will need more than just Dermot Weld's yard to provide him with winners, just as he did at Wexford with Sabrina Harty and James Lambe chipping in with a winner apiece.
'Holy Roman Emperor' was a very good two-year-old for Ballydoyle who was shuttled off to stud as a three-year-old to replace the Coolmore stallion failure 'George Washington'. His stock have been a success since hitting the track and he added another winner to his list with 'Empress Toorah' winning for Pat Smullen, Sabrina Harty and owner Margaret Nevin.
Smullen popped her straight into the lead once the gates opened and they made every yard of the running over the one-mile, one hundred-yard trip of the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders' Fund Fillies' Maiden to upset the favourite 'Celestial Fable' and win at 7/2.
This was the most valuable race on the card with €11,000 on offer, and Harty picked up the winner's prize at the fillie's tenth time of asking. Speaking afterwards the Co. Kildare-based trainer stated: 'That was great, she can be tricky to train and can be hot and moody. She is not overly big so handicaps can be hard on a filly of her size, but she seems versatile, stays well and we will tip away with her'.
'Famous Name' is a 21-time winning son of 'Dansili' owned by Kahled Abdullah of Juddmonte Farms Ltd., trained by Dermot Weld who now stands at the Irish National Stud. A standing order for many years in Group and Listed races in Ireland, Britain and France, it remains to be seen if his three parts brother, 'Renown', can reach such heights, but he started on the right course when making an impressive-looking racing debut in the Littlewoods Ireland Ladies' Day Maiden in the same colours.
Racing in fifth place for most of the one-mile, three-furlong trip behind 'Hurricane Volta', the three-year-old son of 'Champs Elysees' came through in the last furlong to go past the favourite, 'Sindarban', and score by a very cosy length at 7/1.
Speaking afterwards the winning jockey Pat Smullen commented: 'He is very laid back, he stays better than 'Famous Name' and he only has another 20 wins to equal him. But it's a good start and hopefully he will progress'. This gelding will not have a career in the stallion sheds so it will be interesting where the Juddmonte team place him into the future.
James Lambe made the trip down from Co. Armagh with a small team of horses and took the last race, the two miles Gorey Handicap, with a resurgent 'Hunting Tower' winning at 9/2 in the hands of Pat Smullen.
The ten-year-old son of 'Sadlers Wells', bred by none other than Queen Elizabeth, won a two-year-old maiden for Richard Hannon at Brighton eight years ago and having won seven races in the intervening period over hurdles and on the flat, his ninth was posted here. With 'Dat's The Plan' and 'Katys Girl' cutting out the running, Smullen bided his time in the ten-runner race to come through and win by a neck.
Commenting afterwards Lambe noted: 'He got an excellent ride today from Pat, the yard is in good form and it was worth the trip down. Pat really got a tune out of him today'. Back in Lambe's yard for the past four months, there are no immediate plans with perhaps an entry at Galway next weekend a possibility.
With the Queen of England breeding a winner,another notable lady or two were at the track as Amanda Brunker hosted the Littlewoods Ireland Ladies' Day with over one hundred colourful women and their outfits brightening up the day.
Patrick Prendergast has a good strike rate of late with the Curragh-based trainer sending out three winners from his last three runners.
The third of these came in the Amanda Brunker Judges Littlewoods Ireland Ladies' Day Rated Race when the Richard Barnes-owned 'Bogardus' opened his account on turf when winning by a neck from Johnny Murtagh's 'Sea The Stars' filly 'Calorie'.
Home-bred by the American-based Barnes at his Grangecon Stud in Co. Wicklow, the son of 'Dalakhani' was 15 lb. better off with that horse from their last encounter at Dundalk and needed every ounce to beat her here by a neck at even money.
Prendergast, who has a small team of 18 horses, indicated: 'That was a clever ride from Gary, it's been a good weekend, the trip was a bit on the sharp side, but he is better on the all-weather'.
With all the talk of fashion, it was fitting that Margaret Heffernan of Dunnes Stores fame got in on the act with her horse 'Cin Cin', an 'Exceed and Excel' four-year-old filly, winning the one-mile, three-furlong Slaney Handicap under Emmet McNamara.
Trained by her husband Andrew, the filly according to the winning trainer 'has not been running well, so we tried her in cheekpieces today. We won't go to Galway but we might head to Tramore next month'. Bred by Mrs. Heffernan's brother Frank, this was very much a family affair for a small yard with five horses in training.
Aidan O'Brien supplied two of the jockeys in the Wexford Racecourse on Facebook Apprentice Handicap, with his daughter Ana riding 'Action Master' for James Lambe and Aidan himself sending 'Duarte Fernandes' to his local track ridden by his son, Donnacha.
Neither of the two young O'Briens got a shout in at the business end with Donnacha involved in a two-horse melee on the turn into the straight with three furlongs to go.
The winner here was a fourth success for Adrian Keatley who won with 'Carraroe Flyer' for Seán Corby. This four-year-old daughter of 'Sintarajan' will now head to Cork following this 14/1 success.
The final winner was Fran Berry for David Watchman with 'An Fear Ciuin'. Racing in the colours of J.P. McManus, the three-year-old son of 'Galileo' pretty much made all the running to win at 11/4 and provide a rare flat win at Wexford for McManus.
The one-mile, three-furlong trip seemed to suit and this horse will most likely be seen over hurdles at a later stage.