Harzand lays down Classic marker with Ballysax spoils
Derby prospect Harzand showed plenty of Classic potential as the Aga Khan-owned colt stormed home in yesterday's PW McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.
Despite taking a big rise in grade after landing a Cork maiden on his recent comeback, the Dermot Weld-trained son of Sea The Stars was sent off the 2/1 favourite.
Aidan O'Brien looked like dominating when Beacon Rock and Cook Islands challenged at the top of the straight, before their lesser-fancied stablemate Idaho breezed past, but Pat Smullen went in pursuit on Harzand and wore down Idaho to triumph by just over a length.
"He showed a lot of quality there," said Smullen. "I was caught for a little bit of speed early on and had to sit and suffer, but when I met the rising ground I never had any doubt I'd get to the horse in front as he stays very well.
"I think he is too big and heavy to go round Epsom, maybe the Irish Derby but I think he has all the qualities for the Leger at Doncaster. The mile and six at Doncaster would be ideal."
Weld added: "As the year progresses he'll make a lovely horse. The best is yet to come - he'll progress gradually and is not the finished article. He's crying out to go a mile and a half."
The day got even better for the Weld-Smullen axis in the following 12-furlong handicap as Alveena sealed a 5/1 double for the pair in the same colours as the even-money favourite prevailed by three-quarters of a length from Here For The Craic.
Adrian Keatley claimed Group Three honours as Jet Setting made every post a winning one under Shane Foley in the 1,000 Guineas Trial.
Bought out of the Richard Hannon stable for 12,000gns last autumn, she made here debut for Keatley with a third in a French Listed race before returning to break her duck at Cork.
This was a big step-up for the 11/2 chance, but Foley bounced her out and never looked back as he swung for home with only Now Or Never in close attendance, and Jet Setting bounded three lengths clear. O'Brien's favourite Alice Springs was a never-nearer third.
However, the Ballydoyle supremo still left the track with a double, spearheaded by the success of Black Sea, which lunged late to come out on top in a three-way finish to the 2,000 Guineas Trial.
Ryan Moore switched to the 7/2 chance in the absence of Ballydoyle stablemate Johannes Vermeer and was anchored in rear of the four-runner field as Weld's A Likely Story blazed a trail in front. The pacemaker still held a significant advantage halfway down the straight but soon began to tread water, with his stablemate True Solitaire (8/11 favourite) passing him first before being tackled by Stenographer.
Moore came last of all, though, and could not have been in front more than a couple of strides from the line. Stenographer and True Solitaire dead-heated for second. "Ryan gave him a great ride," remarked O'Brien. "He said he will go on better ground and will get further."
This win completed a 67/1 brace for the trainer who saw the outsider of his three runners in the opening ten-furlong maiden, Bhutan, take the spoils on his debut. The Galileo colt (14/1) swept to the head of affairs a furlong and a half out under Donnacha O'Brien, leading home a Ballydoyle 1-2 with the 9/4 joint-favourite Housesofparliament second under Moore.
The pair were nicely clear of the rest, and O'Brien Snr said of the grey winner: "I liked him as a two-year-old but as we got close to running him he was getting lazier and lazier and we didn't get to run."