Airlie Beach signs off on a high in Galway
Classy mare Airlie Beach rounded off her racing career in tremendous style with a typically game success in yesterday's Ardilaun Hotel Oyster Stakes at Galway.
The Willie Mullins-trained mare had won eight of her previous 13 starts including six races over hurdles - featuring the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse - a bumper and most recently a first victory on the Flat at Tramore.
As she is in foal to Mount Nelson, this Listed event was to be her swansong and she went out in a blaze of glory in the hands at Pat Smullen.
A tardy start was not ideal, but title-chasing Smullen soon got her back on an even keel and she raced enthusiastically on the heels of the leaders. The 2/1 market leader hit the front rounding the home turn and dug deep to see off the persistent challenge of Remarkable Lady by a length and a half.
"It's nothing short of a pleasure to ride such a good mare and for her to go out like that is a fairytale for all the connections," said Smullen.
"She is a typical one of Willie Mullins' and wants to go further than that trip and needed all of the hill.
"Every step she took up the hill she was devouring it and her stamina won out. She is a real quality mare and it's great she has gone out on a high."
Airlie Beach was one of two winners on the card for Smullen, having earlier steered Hazapour (5/2) home for his boss Dermot Weld in the opening juvenile maiden over an extended mile.
The Aga Khan-owned colt took up the running approaching the straight and readily held off odds-on favourite Hunting Horn by a length.
With the champion jockey's title rival Colin Keane also on the mark for Madeleine Tylicki on Coeur D'Amour (7/2) in the two-year-old fillies' maiden, the pair are now locked together on 71 winners for the campaign.
Smullen remarked: "It's going to be like that for a long way yet and there are a lot of people panicking, bar me."
At Fairyhouse today, Willie McCreery is keeping his fingers crossed that Abamanova will continue her progression in the Ballyhane Blenheim Stakes at Fairyhouse today.
The daughter of Camacho was third on her racecourse debut at the Curragh in the middle of last month and showed the benefit of that experience when bolting up at Bellewstown a few weeks later.
Now, she tests the water at Listed level. The nine-strong field also includes Aidan O'Brien's dual Curragh scorer Fleet Review, Jessica Harrington's experienced gelding Brick By Brick and the Ger Lyons-trained Gobi Desert, which won on his introduction at the Curragh a month ago.