Punters found the going as tough as the horses and jockeys at a blustery Fairyhouse yesterday as a series of surprise results culminated in a hard-fought success for Jane Austen in the Finale Stakes.
On just the third outing of her career, the daughter of Galileo responded to a particularly strong drive from Johnny Murtagh to foil the Harley family's veteran Muskatsturm and Suailce in the Presidential colours.
Originally due to partner Irish St Leger second New Zealand, Murtagh was switched to Jane Austen, which held an official rating of 80 going into the race, and Aidan O'Brien's charge made a mockery of that mark.
However, the first three came very close together well inside the final furlong ahead of the eye-catching Catch Me. Suailce seemed to get very little room and it was no surprise that the stewards called an enquiry.
As no alteration was made, Murtagh was able to celebrate his 77th winner of the domestic campaign, which leaves him tied in second with Fran Berry as they move on to the Curragh today, two adrift of Pat Smullen.
The session had started on a low note for Johnny as the Ballydoyle favourite Four Star General was worried out of the opening maiden by Smullen on Cnocan Gold and Benwilt Breeze was withdrawn from the next.
It was soon business as usual though for Murtagh and O'Brien in the Bobbyjo Bistro Maiden as Golden Sword came with a sustained challenge on the outer to reverse recent Curragh form with the odds-on Ebashan.
The well-backed Oh Goodness Me seemed set to round off a memorable weekend for Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning as she went for home early in the straight, but Pat Shanahan had other ideas aboard Turin Lady.
Mayo businessman Martin McHale's Alhaarth filly stormed up on the far rail to oblige at 9/1.
Kilcullen trainer John Hayden received an early 70th birthday present when the home-bred 12/1 chance, Emily Blake, just held off the favourite Nanotech in a protracted duel for the Joe Mc Grath Handicap.