IT HAS been a busy week on the local flat scene and a Guineas classic weekend at the Curragh, but my ‘achievement of the last seven days award’ goes to New Ross flat jockey, Donagh O’Connor, who recorded his first-ever track treble at Cork on Wednesday evening from just three rides, returning the phenomenal odds of 3,350/1.
He has enjoyed a good winter on the all-weather at Dundalk, but this performance certainly advertised his abilities on turf as well.
He got off the mark in the opening six furlongs maiden with a determined front-running effort on the John McConnell-trained Hernes Hill, despite being totally friendless in the market, drifting like a barge from 8/1 to 20/1.
He finished strong to win by more than a length with the 4/9 favourite, Relevant Range, back in third. “He is a big tank of a horse who was able to get through it,” was O’Connor’s verdict.
The second leg came over seven furlongs on Shawaamekh (28/1), running for the first time for O’Connor’s long-time ally, Johnny Levins.
He was pushing along in third over a furlong out but stayed on well and took it up close to the line to take it from 22 rivals. The horse had won three times in England for Declan Carroll.
The treble came up in a 16-runner, ten-furlong handicap and it was a very well-timed ride to also complete a first and last race double for trainer McConnell.
O’Connor took it up on Fennor Cross (9/2) just 50 yards from the line to prevail by half a length, with all the top men behind him such as Chris Hayes, Wayne Lordan, Seamie Heffernan, Colin Keane, etc.
Donagh commented: “I was coming here with one or two shouts but to have a treble, my first one, is great. I was denied a treble a couple of years ago by a head, so this is nice to get.”
He has now exceeded 110 career winners since having four in his first year in 2014.
O’Connor’s good week began the previous day at Sligo when he had a winner from his two rides on Sally Golightly (12/1), trained by Jack Davison, going clear in the final one hundred yards of Jim Bolger’s Level Pitch (10/1) under Kevin Manning.
Meanwhile, Aidan O’Brien and Ballydoyle made an impact over the three days of the Irish Guineas Festival at the Curragh with some very good runs, but it is all about results at their level and it is a hard fact that they won none of the Group 1s and had just two winners from 20 runners.
They did win the Group 3 Marble Hill Stakes with Blackbeard (5/2) under Ryan Moore, and the second came in the last race, a humble fillies’ maiden, with Kiss You Later (8/1) under Seamie Heffernan.
That was in the Moyglare colours, carried to victory in the 1,000 Guineas earlier in the day by a really impressive Homeless Songs (11/2), in the care of their long-serving Irish trainer, Dermot Weld, ridden by Chris Hayes .
O’Brien had second and third with Tuesday (11/4f) under Moore and Concert Hall (15/2) ridden by Wayne Lordan, good runs but outclassed by the five and a half lengths winner.
Aidan had only one in the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday, paying €30,000 to supplement Ivy League; his odds of 18/1 fairly reflected the horse’s chances as he finished seventh of nine behind favourite and comfortable winner, Native Trail (2/5).
Jim Bolger’s Wexford Native (25/1) outran his odds to finish three lengths third.
Native Trail was completing a unique treble for trainer Charlie Appleby of English, French and Irish 2,000 Guineas in a month with three different horses, all ridden by William Buick for Godolphin.
Ballydoyle’s beaten favourites included Samuel Pepys (10/11), Wordsworth (third of twelve at 13/8), and Congo River (13/8) which ran quite well to be second in a two-year-old maiden behind Hellsing (11/2) for Ger Lyons.
The other Group 1 on Sunday was the €400k Tattersalls Gold Cup, and Ryan Moore gave a master class in defeat on the unfancied High Definition (20/1 from 14s).
He made the running and was only caught near the line by William Haggas’s Alenquer (7/2) and Tom Marquand on his first ride in Ireland.
Joseph O’Brien’s State of Rest (2/1), a Group 1 winner on three continents, was a neck back in third in the race of the meeting, in my view.
Jim Bolger was a bit unlucky when his Boundless Ocean (11/2 into 11/4) got no run at all in the final two furlongs of the €60k Group 3 Gallinule Stakes on Friday.
Kevin Manning found room hard to find until close home and he still finished third. He was less than three lengths behind the winner, Joseph O’Brien’s highly-regarded Hannibal Barca (7/4f) under Shane Cross.
A good thing about the Guineas meeting was the democratic spread of success, with wins not just for strong yards like Joseph O’Brien, Johnny Murtagh, Ger Lyons and Jessie Harrington, but also for the likes of ‘Fozzy’ Stack (two), rising Tipperary star Paddy Twomey (two), veteran Michael Grassick, Barry J. Fitzgerald, Andrew Slattery and Sarah Lynam. Three of the top races went for export to Britain.
In Britain, P.J. McDonald had four winners in a couple of days: Phantom Flight (7/2) at Haydock on Friday; a double at York next day with Exminister (9/1) by a head and Bradsell (9/4); and he won from 20 rivals at York again on Sunday with 18/1 shot Asjad.
A busy Pat Dobbs had three winners in the week, starting with a double at Wolverhampton on Monday on Rattling (11/5) by a head and Bang on the Bell (7/4).
He won from twelve rivals on Tuesday on I Doubt That (11/4f) at Kempton, where he also lost out by a nose on Richard Hannon’s Land of Summer.