Sunday 25 March 2018

Portage secures Royal first for Halford

Mick Halford Picture: Getty
Mick Halford Picture: Getty
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Mick Halford secured a memorable first success at Royal Ascot when Portage ground out a brave win in yesterday's Hunt Cup.

Sheikh Mohammed is a devoted supporter of the popular Kildare handler, and they combined for Group One glory with Casamento in 2010.

This time, Halford put the top hat on an unforgettable day for the Dubai prince, as Portage's 10/1 triumph under James Doyle completed a 285/1 treble for the royal blue of Godolphin.

Louth-born Richard Fahey and William Buick had plundered the Jersey Stakes with Ribchester (7/1), before the 9/4 favourite Usherette trounced its Duke Of Cambridge opposition for Andre Fabre and Mickael Barzalona.

Then Halford produced Portage, successful off a 15lb lower mark over course and distance last July, to confirm the impression that he made when scoring in Listed company on its Curragh return just 11 days earlier.

"It's hard to put into words but it's certainly exciting," Halford admitted of the landmark victory.

"It means the world to us. Sheikh Mohammed has been exceptionally good to us. In some way, this will help repay his generosity and loyalty to us.

"This is quite a decent horse but we have been patient with him; hopefully he can keep building from here."

In the Prince Of Wales's Stakes, the Japanese hot-pot A Shin Hikari flopped. Found looked like she would take advantage for Ballydoyle, but had to settle for another brave defeat as the 16/1 outsider My Dream Boat surged home on the outside to thwart her.

Frankie Dettori doubled America's tally for the week when steering Wesley Ward's Lady Aurelia (2/1 fav) to a sensational rout of her Queen Mary rivals.

The Ascot specialist then doubled up aboard John Gosden's 11/4 Sandringham market leader, Persuasive.

While Kevin Prendergast's return to the royal meeting with Awtaad after a 20-year absence didn't end in triumph on Tuesday, the redoubtable Curragh handler can get back to winning ways with Madroos.

The narrow Gowran Park winner contests a 10-furlong conditions race at Leopardstown tonight. A son of Teofilo, he won over a mile that day, but the manner in which he ground it out from Kitten Loves Roses suggested that he would have a fighting chance of staying this far.

Granted, the form isn't anything special. However, on just the third start of his life, Madroos appeals as having the scope to keep improving.

Chris Hayes's mount probably needs to, as he has a bit to find on ratings. Jim Bolger's filly Ceol Na Nog has twice dotted up at Navan, latterly off a mark of 75. She is a real threat, but Madroos looks more progressive.

The card's feature event is the €63,000 Ballycorus Stakes. A field of six will go to post for the seven-furlong Group Three, and it might pay to keep Kevin Ryan's Yorkshire-based raider Kelinni on side under Shane Gray. Tom Hogan's Gordon Lord Byron will have a big say if he can step forward for his respectable turn behind Mobsta at the Curragh, while Aidan O'Brien's Dick Whittington was a fine third on that occasion.

He could yet do much better, but Ryan does well with his cross-channel ventures. A course-and-distance winner off a mark of 105 on Irish Champions Weekend, Kelinni will relish the bit of give underfoot. If he doesn't get too much hassle up front, he might take a bit of pegging back.

In the juveniles' maiden, any number could figure, but Ken Condon's Glenamoy Lad might be the one to keep on side, despite a poor draw. Shane Foley's mount caught the eye when fifth over five furlongs at Tipperary behind the Windsor Castle third Pedestal.

Glenamoy Lad steps up from five to six furlongs now, and that should help.

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