Sport Horse Racing

Monday 23 April 2018

O'Brien weekend off to flyer with Curragh double

Hayes: Opening race winner
Hayes: Opening race winner

Thomas Kelly

DESPITE watching expensive purchase Most Improved finishing only third in the International Stakes, Aidan O'Brien still bore the look of a satisfied man after last night's feature at the Curragh.

Most Improved went off 5/4 for the Group Three 10-furlong contest, but last year's St James's Palace Stakes winner was never travelling like a winner as stablemate Flying The Flag took the spoils for the Ballydoyle supremo.

Formerly with Brian Meehan, Most Improved was making his first start for 251 days and lack of fitness appeared to tell for Joseph O'Brien's mount. However, O'Brien Snr is convinced he will come on for the outing and show much more as the season progresses.

"He has been off a long time and he just got tired as he was entitled to do," said the trainer. "I was very happy with the run, especially how he travelled during the race."

O'Brien still came out on top as Flying The Flag under Seamie Heffernan overtook the pace-setting Aloof in the final furlong to win by four lengths.

"I'm delighted with him. He's a mile and a quarter horse and fast ground is important to him. There was plenty of pace on and that suited him," said the Wexford native.

The trainer went on to complete a double as The Vatican (5/2) overcame a 358-day absence to hold off Al Destoor in the closing maiden.

Earlier, Avenue Gabriel defied odds of 14/1 to get the better of Ballybacka Queen as two newcomers battled out the finish to the opening two-year-old maiden for fillies.

Ridden by Chris Hayes, Avenue Gabriel got on top close to home to score by a neck from 50/1 outsider Ballybacka Queen and give owner Lady O'Reilly her first winner with trainer Paul Deegan. Snow, sent off the 4/6 favourite, never looked like obliging for the O'Briens, finishing only fifth.

"We think she is a nice filly and there is plenty more to come from her," said Deegan afterwards. "She was ready to go and do herself justice and she'll probably go for the Silver Flash Stakes now."

Dr Funkenstein (6/4 favourite) justified strong support to open his account in the 100 to 102 Today FM Maiden. The Ger Lyons-trained gelding stepped up on a debut third to defeat One True Love by a length and three-quarters.

"He'll be a real horse in six months time. He is a big horse and he needs every yard of that trip," said the trainer.

First-time cheekpieces did the trick as Yulong Baoju (7/2) took the Irish National Stud Gathering Handicap.

Eddie Lynam's filly had disappointed on both her starts this year, but dropped down to five furlongs she hit the front inside the final furlong and held Speed Dream by a length.

"Timing is everything and her owners are over from China to see her run and even better they had a few quid on," the in-form Lynam explained.

"It was a good time, 57.85 seconds, and she'll probably go for the Rockingham (at the Curragh next month) now."

Young rider Marc Monaghan followed up his Group Three triumph on Midnight Soprano earlier this month by steering home John Oxx's Mourani in the Apprentice Derby.

Leading over two furlongs out, the 4/1 shot pulled away to score by a length and three-quarters from O'Brien's King Of the Romans.

Irish Independent

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