Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 16 January 2018

O'Brien strengthens title claims with Naas double

Thomas Kelly

Joseph O'Brien moved further clear in the race for the Flat jockeys' championship with a Naas double through Francis Of Assisi and Snow Queen.

The former ran out a clear-cut winner of the Tifrums European Breeders Fund Maiden as O'Brien restored a six-winner advantage over Pat Smullen.

Asserting over a furlong out, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Danehill Dancer colt, sporting first-time cheekpieces, ran on to beat long-time leader General Direction with plenty in hand as the even-money favourite. "He's not un-genuine but is leery and was looking at everything," said O'Brien Jnr. "He was green and won in spite of that. Hopefully he'll be better stepped up in trip."

O'Brien went seven ahead of Smullen (87-80) as Snow Queen (3/1), also trained by his father, landed the Birdcatcher Premier Nursery, just getting on top in the closing stages and having a neck to spare from the fast-finishing Ballyorban.

The rider said: "She won very well. They went a good gallop, which helped. She's a filly we've always liked and she's starting to show on the track the ability she shows at home."

O'Brien missed the chance to go eight in front of Smullen when Offer (10/1) won the Naas October Handicap for Ballydoyle, but with Seamie Heffernan in the plate. O'Brien was only eighth on stablemate Harrison's Cave.

Manieree made all under Niall McCullagh to claim Listed glory in the EBF Garnet Stakes over a mile for trainer John Oxx.

The odds-on favourite was last seen finishing seventh in the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp on Arc day and took full advantage of the major drop in class to score by seven lengths from Shifting.

"She's a very good filly but had a serious accident in January. She loves soft ground and missed the whole year when it would have been right up her street," explained Oxx.

"She could have got some black type in races like the Pretty Polly. It took her two races to get fit. Her next outing will be the December Sales at Newmarket."

Over the jumps, trainer Michael O'Hare embellished his fine record at the track when Special Bar bounced back to form in the maiden hurdle.

The five-year-old had been below par in his last three outings, but with market leader Troubled running a stinker, the 6/1 shot stayed on nicely under Robbie Colgan to beat Italian Chorus.

"It's a lucky track for us. He'll take a break now as he has a couple of niggly problems," O'Hare explained.

There was a very impressive winner of the closing bumper as Michael O'Leary's colours were carried to victory by Road To Riches.

Trained by Noel Meade, the 8/13 favourite was held up behind the leaders by Nina Carberry before the rider pushed her mount to the front in the straight and the son of Gamut stayed on to win by just over four lengths from O'Hare's Gold Bullet.

Irish Independent

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