'Master' belies his odds to prove vintage crop for O'Brien
Joseph O'Brien upstaged his father Aidan as his Master Of Reality made every post a winning one to spring a 33/1 surprise in the Sequence Events Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan.
A field of nine runners went to post for a Group Three contest which is this year the sole Irish qualifier for the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers' Million - with a £1m bonus up for grabs for any horse who can win the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, the Goodwood Cup and the Lonsdale Cup at York, as Stradivarius did in 2018.
O'Brien Snr was expected to land the spoils with 2017 Irish Derby hero Capri, but he was under pressure a long way out and trailed home in fifth. Master Of Reality, meanwhile, was quickly sent to the front in the hands of Wayne Lordan.
The unconsidered son of Frankel looked booked for minor honours when tackled and briefly passed by Mustajeer, but roared back gamely to edge out the Ger Lyons-trained inmate by a neck. Capri's stablemate, Southern France, was third.
"He had good form in France and I thought he would need the run. Wayne kept it nice and simple on him because he is an uncomplicated horse," said the winning trainer.
"He stays and goes well and is a well-bred horse. He had two ordinary runs for me last year, but it is hard swapping mid-season from France to here."
As for future targets, he added: "We'll have to train him for a Gold Cup now. He stays and he is going to come on a bit for the run, I'd say."
O'Brien Snr enjoyed better fortune in the Salsabil Stakes as Oaks favourite Pink Dogwood made a winning return with a hard-fought success.
The Ballydoyle supremo fired a three-pronged assault on the Listed contest, with Pink Dogwood (4/5) the first string under Ryan Moore.
Odds-on backers were made to sweat, with Noel Meade's recent Clonmel scorer Encapsulation refusing to go down without a fight, but Pink Dogwood eventually got the better of the argument by half a length.
"The plan was always that we would go to the Oaks and whether she will have a run or not before then, I'm not sure," said O'Brien. "It's possible, but not definite, that she'll go straight there."
The same trainer-jockey combination went on to complete a double in the ten-furlong handicap with Blenheim Palace (5/1), which dug deep to see off another Meade charge, Red Gerry, by a three-parts of a length
The Lyons-trained Inverleigh was a decisive winner of the Listed Committed Stakes. Making his first appearance since October, Inverleigh was a 6/1 shot in the hands of Donagh O'Connor and was good value for the winning margin of a length and three-quarters over O'Brien's 5/2 favourite The Irish Rover.
O'Brien Jnr showed his versatility by also landing the opening mares' maiden hurdle at Sligo, where his Little Light comfortably justified 11/8 favouritism in the hands of JJ Slevin.
However, the training honours in the north-west went to Gordon Elliott, who sent out four winners in the hands of four different jockeys.
First up was the success of 2/5 hotpot Lethal Steps for Davy Russell in the maiden hurdle before Keith Donoghue steered Take A Turn (7/2) home in the two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle. Soldier At War (7/2) then took the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle in the hands of Jack Kennedy, before Jamie Codd drove Glens Finale (5/6 favourite) to a battling neck victory in the closing bumper.