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Classic gold for Samitar

AIDAN O'Brien is an undoubted genius. Over the weekend he secured a record-breaking 200th Group or Grade One victory and he equalled the tally of 27 Irish Classic victories set by Vincent O'Brien.

There are few surer things in life than O'Brien securing a 28th and record-breaking Irish Classic, but he didn't do it yesterday as his short-priced favourite Homecoming Queen failed to become just the fourth filly to complete the Newmarket and Curragh 1,000 Guineas double.

Indeed, momentarily it appeared that O'Brien's outsider Ishvana may cause a major upset, but she was eventually well held by Mick Channon's worthy winner Samitar.

O'Brien takes defeat with huge dignity. The change in ground will probably be pinpointed as one reason for the below-par performance of Homecoming Queen, but he will regroup with 'the team' which he so often refers to and never forgets, and they'll surely get her back to winning ways before too long.

Yesterday was about Martin Harley, Channon and Samitar, and as Channon secured his second win in as many days at Irish flat racing's HQ, his faith in the daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar was justified.


On Saturday he said that the then 25/1 shot had every right to be in the field and fumed that she got two "balls of rides" on her two starts this season.

Having suggested to the owner, Martin Schwartz, that Jamie Spencer and Olivier Peslier be benched for both making the running on her, the former professional footballer turned trainer put his faith in Harley, who has been based with Channon for the last season and a half.

"I said I wanted to do it my way today and the owner left me put Martin up, and he got it spot on on her. She was ridden with a bit of confidence today instead of just letting her whizz, which is what happened in her first two races this season," said Channon, who was capped 46 times for England in the 1970s.

For the little Letterkenny native Harley, he had served his time well with Jim Bolger, who was incidentally the first man over to congratulate the rider as he dismounted, and he got his due rewards for hard graft yesterday.

"Jim obviously gave him a few b****ckings when he was there, because he was well used to them when he came to us!" Channon suggested. "He's done well though. He has taken everything we have thrown at him and he's done right well."

Harley, who was having his second ride in a Classic, having previously ridden a long shot for Bolger, added:

"They went a nice gallop all the way and I was happy to be tracking the two horses I wanted to be tracking.

"Two furlongs down she was never going to get beat, she was travelling like the winner all the way. It's an amazing feeling."

Before racing yesterday, O'Brien was quoted as just a 14/1 chance to saddle all 10 Classic winners on both sides of the Irish Sea having got the first three up.

That historic feat wasn't to be, but on what was a very positive weekend for the Curragh in terms of attendances, taking that air of inevitability out of the race with Samitar winning fair and square did Irish racing no harm.

So often on the 'big days', and especially on days covered by RTE, we see O'Brien dominating and, to a slightly lesser extent, Willie Mullins.


While you can only marvel at their sublime talent at training racehorses, the general public likes to sometimes see the smaller outfit enjoy a day in the sun.

And even more so, it now leaves races like the Coronation Stakes (Samitar's next probable engagement) a more difficult puzzle to unravel as opposed to it being another predictable winner for Ballydoyle.

Racing is a far more interesting sport when O'Brien can masterfully bring Power from a poor run at Newmarket to win a very competitive Classic like he did on Saturday, as opposed to racking up another Group One in an uncompetitive field as he did in yesterday's Tattersalls Gold Cup.