Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 24 March 2018

Pearl's win proves a real gem for Flat scene

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

FLAT racing in Ireland is a hard sell at the best of times. Part of that is simply down to tradition, but when you factor in the almost obscene dominance currently enjoyed by the Coolmore juggernaut, it's probably no wonder that Irish racing is valued more by those looking in from afar than it is at home.

When the wider world sees a superstar like So You Think strut his stuff here they tend to look on in awe. We tend to see the lack of competition that horses of that calibre face here throughout the season and look on in frustration.

To that end, Ger Lyons' debut Group One triumph with Lightening Pearl in Saturday's Cheveley Park Stakes was a welcome development.

Having forked out £15,000 to supplement her for the race in the first place, it was also astute business.

By his own admission, Lyons -- famously outspoken and independent minded -- has never been one to toe the line.

A committed member of the Twitterati, he isn't afraid to ruffle a few diplomatic feathers, but he is also a shrewd and ambitious trainer who runs a tight ship at Dunsany in Co Meath, and whose strategic targeting of the all-weather facility at Dundalk is a testament to his hard-nosed practicality.

When Sheikh Mohammed opted to put two-year-olds back in training in Ireland, Lyons, along with Mick Halford and David Marnane, was signed up to the roster.

That was a boon for all three and Halford was quick to vindicate the Sheikh's judgment when Casamento capped his 2010 campaign with Group One success.

Now Lyons has achieved a similar feat -- albeit for a different Arab owner in Sheikh Fahad Al Thani -- by becoming the fourth Irish trainer in two years, following Halford, Jessica Harrington and Eddie Lynam, to dine at the top table for a first time.

Given that five years had passed since the now retired Frances Crowley saddled Saoire to win the 1,000 Guineas in 2005, to have four brand new Group One-winning handlers in the ranks hopefully points to more robust competition in the long-term.

That said, as Harrington, Halford, Crowley and Con Collins, who won the 2004 Moyglare with Chelsea Rose, will attest, one swallow a summer does not make.

Still, it's reassuring to know that a real grafter like Ger Lyons will spend the winter months dreaming of Classic glory.

More luck to him.

Busy schedule for Bolger's Banimpire

Jim Bolger revealed yesterday that his Royal Ascot winner Banimpire would probably have her 11th start of the season in the Prix de l'Opera next weekend, before possibly heading back to Ascot a fortnight later.

Having scored at Cork four days before her Ribblesdale success, such a busy schedule clearly suits the seven-time winner.

Bolger's Glor Na Mara, on the other hand, is proving altogether more frustrating. Placed in the Dewhurst behind Frankel last year, the highly tried colt tackled a maiden for the first time in 13 starts at Gowran Park on Saturday. In a poor race, he somehow managed to still find one too good in Dermot Weld's Solar Verde.

Ride of the weekend

Seamie Heffernan's front-running steer on David Livingston to deny the odds-on Akeed Mofeed in the Beresford Stakes at The Curragh yesterday was a job well done.

Despite it being the horse's first try at a mile, his rider bounced him out with real conviction from the start. Heffernan sought to stretch his rivals early in the straight and always looked like he had enough up his sleeve to keep the green-looking favourite at bay, which he did by a half-length. Aidan O'Brien has still to confirm if Heffernan will get the chance to maintain his unbeaten partnership with So You Think in Sunday's Arc, but he hardly needs to look elsewhere.

Training performance

of the weekend

Fethard handler David Nagle has done a tremendous job since poaching the un-raced Maarek out of John Gosden's yard at the end of 2010. The four-year-old was making his 13th start of the campaign in the €29,250 Joe McGrath Handicap at The Curragh yesterday, and got up late under a fine Wayne Lordan ride to win for a third time.


3 Ardglen's haul for the week after scoring at Clonmel yesterday for the in-form John 'Shark' Hanlon and Brian Hayes partnership.

He had previously obliged at Ballinrobe on Monday and Listowel on Friday, and now heads for Sligo on Wednesday.


"Had a call from a UK press man, Why did you supplement LP for the Ch Park? He asked. Cos I had a s**t load of €€ to get rid of, I replied!" -- Following Lightening Pearl's win at Newmarket on Saturday, Ger Lyons' mid-week tweet reads even better.

Irish Independent

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