Thursday 22 March 2018

O'Brien off to flier as Alice Springs shines on debut

President Michael D Higgins congratulates trainer Johnny Murtagh after his daughter Caroline (centre) had ridden 20/1 outsider Jocular to victory in the DoneDeal Apprentice Derby at the Curragh
President Michael D Higgins congratulates trainer Johnny Murtagh after his daughter Caroline (centre) had ridden 20/1 outsider Jocular to victory in the DoneDeal Apprentice Derby at the Curragh

Thomas Kelly

Alice Springs lived up to expectations on debut with a lovely performance under Seamie Heffernan in the When You Want It Done, DoneDeal European Breeders Fund Fillies Maiden at the Curragh.

Aidan O'Brien's chestnut looked like an old hand under Seamie Heffernan, when leading on the rail from over a furlong out. From there the daughter of Galileo strode away in the style of a classy performer to defeat Siamsaiocht by two lengths.

"You would have to be delighted with that. She's a lovely filly and will have learned plenty. We will have to think about something like the Debutante Stakes," revealed winning trainer O'Brien.

Looking ahead to the big one today, O'Brien added: "I walked the full mile and a half of the Derby track and it is in beautiful condition. They have done a good job.

"All four horses are in good form, and it will be interesting to see how Highland Reel gets on stepping up in distance. I think he'll get the trip."

Meanwhile, Boylesports go 20/1 for the Guineas, and 14/1 for the Oaks, about Alice Springs for next year's Classics at Newmarket and Epsom respectively.

Johnny Murtagh's daughter Caroline picked a good day to ride her first Curragh winner when Jocular shed his maiden tag in the DoneDeal Apprentice Handicap.

Soon in a clear lead Jocular came back to the field from the five pole. The game certainly looked up for the 20/1 chance when headed in the final quarter mile by Captain Carleton.

However the Champs Elysees gelding gamely battled back to lead inside the final furlong. In a race that was a great advertisement for the girl apprentices, Ana O'Brien got a tremendous late 'rattle' out of the far from straight-forward, On A Pedestal, but she was half a length off Jocular at the line.

A fourth winner in all and a first this season, this was a special success for Caroline Murtagh as it came for her father.

He said: "We ran the track before racing, and in fairness to Caroline she did everything she said she would. He's a big strider and maybe we were riding him wrong by holding him up.

"He's tough and genuine, and could go for the Ladies Derby over the same course and distance.

"Caroline has been with Eddie Lynam for the past week, and he has been singing her praises so it's been good for everyone. Many thanks as well to Sheikh Fahad (Qatar Racing Limited) for his patience and sticking with Caroline."

The Stewards enquired into an incident in the closing stages involving Eshtiaal, ridden by JW Kennedy, and Jocular where it appeared Eshtiaal ran short of room on the inner and was forced to check.

Having viewed the recording of the race and considered the evidence, the Stewards cautioned Caroline Murtagh to ride with more care in future.

Meanwhile, Danny Grant was taken to hospital following a fall from Waydownsouth in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund 'Ragusa' Handicap at the Curragh.

Grant's mount crashed to the ground early in the mile-and-a-half event, which was won by the Mick Halford-trained Shadagann. The rider was reported to have been knocked out for two minutes, but was fully alert afterwards and taken for checks on suspected left wrist and lower back injuries.

A stewards' inquiry concluded the eight-year-old had clipped heels after a furlong and a half, leading to his fall.

Turf Club chief medical officer Dr Adrian McGoldrick was full of praise for Grant's helmet and back protector, as he got a kick from a following horse. He will be automatically stood down for six days as a result of his concussion.

McGoldrick said: "You can see the dint in his helmet, where he was kicked. There is no doubt the helmet and back protector saved him."

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