Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 13 December 2017

McCullagh class helps Manieree storm home

Thomas Kelly

WILY veteran Niall McCullagh handed a race-riding lesson to his fellow jockeys as he guided Manieree to victory in Blandford Stakes at The Curragh yesterday.

McCullagh -- fresh from his win on Saddler's Rock in the Doncaster Cup on Friday -- bounced the John Oxx-trained filly out of the stalls and had a soft lead with only the Johnny Murtagh-trained stablemate Kirinda and Dermot Weld's Sapphire alert to the danger of giving Manieree too much rope.

Bible Belt, sent off 11/8 favourite following three wins in lesser company, was settled in mid-pack by Fran Berry with last year's winner Eleanora Duse racing closer to the pace in third.

But coming into the home straight, Manieree kicked for home and those in behind were caught flat-footed as the leader powered on. Bible Belt was brought wide by Berry but she failed to pick up and Eleanora Duse weakened tamely out of contention, leaving Sapphire to try and catch the leader.

Finding plenty in the straight, the 9/1 shot went on to take the Group Two honours by three and a quarter lengths from Sapphire with Look At Me third.

"It has been a good week. We have nice horses running in the right races," Oxx said.

"She likes soft ground and improved a bit today. The mile-and-a-quarter is better for her than one mile, one furlong.

"She's a good filly and might be better if the ground is heavy. She is in the Prix de l'Opera and I'll train her for it."

Bewitched returned to winning form with victory in Renaissance Stakes.

The Charles O'Brien-trained filly won this race last year and she was sent off the 13/8 favourite despite flopping at Royal Ascot and finishing out of the frame in the Sprint Cup at Haydock on her last two starts.

Dropping back to Group Three company here though, the four-year-old regained the winning thread as she cruised up a furlong out under Murtagh.

Bewitched quickly put her head in front and had three-quarters of a length to spare over Definightly at the line with Croisultan back in third.

English invader Cityscape outclassed his rivals with an emphatic display to win the Woodies DIY Supporting Irish Autism Action Solonaway Stakes.

The 2/5 shot, ridden by Steve Drowne, swept past the pacesetting Across The Rhine over a furlong out and quickly put the race to bed. Roger Charlton's five-year-old scored by two and a half lengths from Wild Wind with Across The Rhine hanging on to minor honours.

Coral Wave opened her account at the third attempt with a convincing all-the-way win in the Flame Of Tara EBF Stakes.

The Paddy Prendergast-trained filly ran the opposition into the ground as she stormed to victory by three and a half lengths in the hands of Declan McDonogh. Lady Wingshot did best of the rest to claim the runner-up spot with the favourite Rubina third.

At Listowel, Ruby Walsh made a low-key return to action after two months out through injury.

The Kildare man finished last of four on the Tony Martin-trained Salute Him behind Paul Carberry's mount Plan A in the Kerrymaid Hurdle, his only ride.

The feature race, the Dawn Milk Handicap Chase, went to the Jessica Harrington-trained Paradis De Thaix, which landed a morning gamble under Mark Bolger. Having gone from 12/1 in the morning to 7/2 favourite, the French-bred caught Pink Suitcase approaching the straight and stayed on well to score by two lengths from Francis Du Mensil.

Irish Independent

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