Tuesday 20 February 2018

Gutsy Curley Bill wins lucrative Guinness Handicap

Curley Bill and Fran Berry (Green) on their way to winning the Guinness Handicap.
Curley Bill and Fran Berry (Green) on their way to winning the Guinness Handicap.
Fran Berry takes the Hood Off Curley Bill after winning the Guinness Handicap.

Curley Bill showed guts in abundance to claim the Guinness Handicap at Galway, the 110,000 euro feature on day five of the festival.

Pat Smullen appeared to hold all the aces on Show Court after collaring the front-running Kingdom but he began to flounder as a host of challengers queued up.

An inspired Fran Berry got a great tune out of the Noel Meade-trained Curley Bill to hit the front but was soon strongly pressed by Danny Grant on Bayan for Gordon Elliott.

The pair settled down to fight it out and it was 9-2 chance Curley Bill who held on by a head, with 11-4 favourite Show Court third.

Meade said: "He never travelled but Fran coaxed him into the race - he barely got away with the ground.

"He had to tough it out in the end, I thought the other lad was going to nail him, and Fran said he was lazy in front. I think he'd travel better on better ground.

"He'll probably go up a few pounds again but he's out of a half-sister to a good hurdler I had a few years ago in Go Native, who was also a good Flat horse.

"This fellow just wasn't getting home in his bumpers and a mile and a half is probably as far as he gets on the Flat.

"He'll get two miles over hurdles and will probably be a summer hurdler."

Berry had earlier initiated a double as David Wachman's Hidden Oasis opened his account at the third attempt by annihilating his rivals in the Guinness 17:59 European Breeders Fund Median Auction Maiden.

Backdrop, the 9-10 favourite, was the first to commit for home, but it was clear rounding the home turn 4-1 shot Hidden Oasis was travelling the stronger.

Once asked to go about his business, the JP McManus-owned Hidden Oasis quickly put distance between himself and his rivals, eventually coming home 10 lengths clear of Trikala.

Berry said: "He never really got organised on the firm ground at Fairyhouse (when only fourth).

"We were obviously going a stride slower here on this ground and I was always very, very happy.

"He quickened up well on the bad ground and stretched away well."

Aidan O'Brien got on the scoresheet for the week as Agreement relished every yard of a mile and a half in the heavy ground in powered to a five-length success in the Guinness European Breeders Fund Maiden.

Keychain looked a major player when moving up on the outside of runner from the three-furlong pole, but Joseph O'Brien got lower in the saddle on the 4-5 favourite as the race hotted up and began to hit top gear on meeting the rising ground.

Agreement had just been touched off when attempting to make all at Tipperary under similar conditions in May, and the winning trainer said: "We were worried he wasn't fit enough on the ground as he had a hold up after Tipperary.

"We will see how he progresses. I was very worried about fitness so I was delighted - Joseph said he stays very well that he should step up a good bit.

"He's a good-moving horse and we might put him in a handicap and see what mark he gets."

The finish of the Arthur Guinness Handicap was a gruelling one and saw Woodsophiesmile see it out best of all.

Dermot Weld's smart mare Unaccompanied was made to work for victory in the two-mile Guinness Race before getting on top close home to reward backers who sent her off the 8-15 market leader.

Declan McDonogh tried to steal a march on Fleur De Nuit and for a few moments looked like he had before Unaccompanied's class and stamina won the day by a length.

Weld said: "She had to be at her toughest and her jockey at his best, which he was.

"This race is usually very tactical and this is the worst ground we have had all week. It is a long way to the line today.

"I think we'll stick to the Flat with her at the moment and go for a Listed or Group Three."

The McManus-owned Snakes And Ladders looked all over the winner when apparently full of running rounding the home bend and kicking clear, but remarkably Tommy Stack's charge was only fourth in a blanket finish, with New Regalia a head behind the Wayne Lordan-ridden 4-1 victor, who was produced to perfection in the last 50 yards and was a sixth success of the week for Tony Martin.

Martin said: "It's magic - brilliant. You couldn't have dreamt of it and the jockey was very cool. I told him to wait and by God he did. She's well-bred and she's worth something to breed off now."

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