Sunday 25 February 2018

Murtagh praises plucky Penitent

Chris McGrath

After a Cheltenham that swung the way of the bookmakers, first blood of the new Flat turf season across the Irish Sea went to punters as Penitent landed a gamble under Johnny Murtagh to take the William Hill Lincoln at Doncaster on Saturday.

And the William Haggas-trained four-year-old, which was 8/1 a week ago and started 3/1 favourite, won as a perceived "good thing" should. Always going well, he eased past Prime Exhibit (12/1) going to the final furlong and stretched clear to score by two-and-a-half lengths.

"The race worked out perfectly," said Murtagh. "He's very straightforward, he's improving and he enjoyed the easy ground." Fifteen minutes later, the Cheveley Park Stud colourbearer's Newmarket stablemate and galloping companion South Easter took a Listed contest at Kempton.

It was a good day, too, for the Yorkshire-based trainer Richard Fahey, for whom Prime Exhibit's bold show was preceded by victories for Irish Heartbeat, another well-backed favourite, and the two-year-old Chiswick Bey, followed by Red Jade. Stable jockey Paul Hanagan rode all three winners and made it a four-timer on Inxile for Dandy Nicholls.

In faraway Meydan, with the distribution of $10m at stake, three noses passed the post in almost perfect unison on Saturday night -- and it was barely by their nostrils that the camera favoured Gloria De Campeao over Lizard's Desire and Allybar.

These horses might almost have been nominated in the architect's plans for Meydan so harmoniously did their origins conform with the intentions of the man behind both the Dubai World Cup and its staggering new venue.

The winner, trained in France by Pascal Bary, was bred, owned and ridden by Brazilians and has also been to Chicago and Singapore since last racing on home soil. The second had come from South Africa while the third was upholding local honour through Mahmoud al-Zarooni and Ahmed Ajtebi, newly appointed as second trainer and jockey to Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin stable.

Seldom can any jockey have betrayed his emotions as vividly as Kevin Shea, whose late surge on Lizard's Desire prompted a congratulatory gesture from Ajtebi. Shea instantly began punching the air only to discover that Tiago Pereira had remained lurking behind Ajtebi's mount on the rail. When the verdict was called, Shea swiped the air in fury.

It was due reward for an expert front-running ride from Pereira. By slowing them down in front, the Brazilian jockey ensured that Henry Cecil's Twice Over ran too free, first getting himself into traffic and then stuck out wide.

Al-Zarooni won the Godolphin Mile with his first official runner in his own right, Calming Influence, and William Buick provided vindication for John Gosden's decision to fast-track him as stable jockey by winning the Sheema Classic on Dar Re Mi.

Buick, 21, coolly manoeuvred across from a wide draw before the first bend and timed his challenge in the straight to hold Japanese filly Buena Vista by three-quarters of a length. "He rode her beautifully," Gosden said. "He got a nice position from the gate -- it's a long straight here and you don't want to hurry." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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