Saturday 25 November 2017

Derby disaster banished as Dawn victory caps great day for the Irish

Kevin J Manning riding Dawn Approach celebrates after winning the St James's Palace Stakes during day one of Royal Ascot
Kevin J Manning riding Dawn Approach celebrates after winning the St James's Palace Stakes during day one of Royal Ascot
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

On a sensational opening salvo at Royal Ascot for Irish horses, trainers and jockeys, Dawn Approach banished the memory of his unruly Epsom Derby turn with a determined short-head triumph under Kevin Manning (above) in an epic edition of the St James's Palace Stakes.

High-profile raiders from America and South Africa added international flair to the meeting's two opening Group Ones, but Aidan O'Brien's well-backed Declaration Of War (15/2) and Eddie Lynam's Sole Power (8/1) set the tone for the day courtesy of last-gasp victories under Joseph O'Brien and Johnny Murtagh.

Dawn Approach then dug deep to repel Toronado, as Jim Bolger produced a training performance of monumental proportions to get the previously unbeaten 5/4 favourite back to winning ways just 17 days after his Epsom flop.

Returning to a mile having initially been ruled out of the meeting until a late change of plan last week, the brilliant colt again raced keenly in Godolphin's blue.

However, he was back in more characteristically gritty form as he overcame a hefty bump two furlongs out, before emerging on top in a prolonged duel with the Richard Hughes-ridden runner-up.

O'Brien then completed a double when War Command sluiced up in the Coventry Stakes, a race Dawn Approach won in 2012.

Perceived to be Ballydoyle's third string, Seamie Heffernan's mount defied 20/1 odds to burst six lengths clear for a scintillating rout that saw him slashed to as low as 5/1 favourite to replicate Dawn Approach's 2,000 Guineas heroics in 2014.

The clean sweep of Ascot's first four races for Irish-trained horses clocked in at enormous combined odds of 3,614/1, and the sense that it was more Cheltenham in March than Ascot in June continued when Jonjo O'Neill, JP McManus and Fran Berry combined to take the Ascot Stakes with Well Sharp.

Murtagh, whose exquisitely timed turn on Sole Power saw him become the first licenced trainer to ride a winner at the Royal meeting, went on to complete his own 152/1 brace on Olly Stevens' Extortionist.

Apart from ensuring every race on the card had been won by an Irish rider, Murtagh's 41st winner at the marquee festival was a further reminder that the man sacked by the Aga Khan last year for his part in his fledgling training yard remains a force in the saddle on the big day.

There are 15 Irish horses in action today, so the previous best of eight winners at the five-day gala looks destined to fall sooner rather than later.

Irish Independent

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