Vastonea reclaims spotlight
Prendergast hero only second to win Mile double
Kevin Prendergast took out his trainer's licence in 1963 and over half a century later the evergreen Curragh-based trainer is still proving that class is permanent.
Prendergast sent out the first and third in yesterday's feature Topaz Mile in front of 19,156 people at Ballybrit as 2012 winner Vastonea led home Piri Wango and Maskoon to join Pinch Hitter as the only dual winners of the lucrative handicap.
In 1972, Prendergast saddled surprise winner Ryker to win the race for the first time and in the process beat an odds-on shot trained by his legendary father 'Darkie', and all five of his subsequent wins in the race have come since 1990.
Vastonea returned last year to defend his crown and put in a gallant effort to finish third, but more favourably treated by the handicapper on this occasion, the six-year-old grey collared Piri Wango in the closing stages to win by three parts of a length.
"It has been a very lucky race for us and the horse was a little better off this year," the winning trainer said.
Looking forward to his daughter Natasha's wedding reception tomorrow afternoon, Prendergast suggested he may attempt to make Vastonea the first three-time winner of the race.
"Vastonea seems to like the terrain around here and he runs in the colours of my wife, but Norman (Ormiston) still remains a major shareholder. We will probably back this day next year."
Last year's triumph for Brendan Brackan was a red-letter day for Colin Keane and it was no different for 20-year-old apprentice Gary Halpin who is in his fourth year with Prendergast. "Gary gave him a lovely ride and claiming off him won us the race. If we hadn't claimed, we wouldn't have won."
Halpin said: "It's a great race to win - especially for the boss - and the horse knows his way around here better than I do!"
Dermot Weld celebrated his birthday as he enjoyed a second day double at his favourite meeting when the classy Hidden Universe bounced back to winning ways after some problems to justify favouritism in the Caulfieldindustrial.com Handicap over two miles.
A former November Handicap winner in 2011, this was only the eight-year-old's fifth start since then. But backers of the 9/4 shot had little to worry about.
"The horse has had a lot of leg problems and been a very hard horse to keep sound and it has been an uphill battle," Weld explained. "I was concerned the ground might be a little quick for him today but he showed tremendous courage and guts to win and the man onboard matched him."
Weld's double was completed in the finale in somewhat dramatic circumstances when long odds-on favourite Antique Platiunum got into a ding-dong battle with Henson in the closing stages but despite a lengthy Stewards Inquiry, the two-length winner remained the victor and favourite backers went home happy.
"She is a very green filly and she is a difficult ride and that is why she has the sunglasses (visor) on. The visor makes her concentrate."
It was a memorable day for trainer Jane Foley, who saddled her first-ever Galway Festival winner with her first-ever runner when Fleet Captain landed the Caulfield Industrial Athlone Handicap under Shane Foley. "That's my first runner here and I'm just thrilled but I haven't looked beyond today," said the Bagenalstown-based trainer.
Aidan O'Brien won the opening race with the JP McManus owned Shield who stayed on gamely under Robbie Power and the five-year-old is set to embark on a novice chasing career in the near future.