Samitar soars in Guineas
The Mick Channon-trained Samitar carried 22-year-old Letterkenny native Martin Harley to a stunning triumph in the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas at The Curragh yesterday.
A graduate of Jim Bolger's renowned finishing school, Harley enjoyed a debut Group One victory on his very first ride on the Rock Of Gibraltar filly.
Having fractured a pair of vertebrae and broken an ankle in two falls here during an otherwise successful four-year stint with Bolger, he had begun to struggle with the scales.
Last year, he relocated to Channon's in the hope that the busier schedule in England would help to stabilise his weight, and was crowned champion apprentice in November.
Yesterday, his star ascended to another level altogether, as Samitar scored by a decisive one-and-a-half lengths to give the former Southampton and England striker Channon a first ever victory in an Irish or British Classic.
"It's a dream come true to ride a winner like this," Harley beamed afterwards. "To win the fillies' Guineas at home is just unbelievable. I must say a big thanks to the boss -- he has given me a lot of chances. This was a big opportunity to get."
Well-beaten in a sales race and in the French 1,000 Guineas this term when ridden from the front, more patient tactics proved crucial for Samitar yesterday.
This time, it was the runaway English 1,000 Guineas heroine Homecoming Queen that led, but she struggled on the quick ground in the latter stages, eventually finishing fourth.
Homecoming Queen's Ballydoyle stablemate Ishvana chased home the 12/1 winner at odds of 33/1, with Princess Sinead third at 25/1 for Jessica Harrington.
Speaking afterwards of Samitar, which is owned by the American Martin Schwartz, Channon revealed: "I said to the owner that I wanted to do it my way this time and he let me have Martin, but I had to find the filly and I'm delighted she turned up.
"She just needed holding up and to be given a chance, so I'm chuffed for Martin. He is a hard-working, good, confident lad that doesn't do anything he shouldn't do, so it's a good day for him and for the whole team back at West Ilsley."
After a tilt at the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, Samitar is expected to continue her racing career in America, while the winner of the day's other Group One will follow a similar route to Australia. So You Think readily completed back-to-back victories in the Tattersalls Gold Cup for Aidan O'Brien and his son Joseph.
Sent off at odds of 2/11 in a five-runner contest that lacked a rival of similar quality, the striking-looking six-year-old was scoring for a ninth time at the highest level.
Having watched last year's Irish Champion Stakes hero go through the motions to collect the €130,000 prize from Famous Name, the Ballydoyle handler confirmed that another repeat bid for the Eclipse at Sandown in July is expected to be his final run.
"He is probably going to stud in Australia," O'Brien said, "and the Eclipse is the last race he could get into before going into quarantine. I put him in the Irish Champion Stakes hoping that the (Coolmore) lads would change their minds, but I know they won't! I'd imagine he'll go for the Prince Of Wales' Stakes at Ascot now."
The father and son team also took the day's juvenile maiden with the Ascot-bound Lines Of Battle (5/1), though O'Brien Snr's bid for a seventh successive win in the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes was undone by Speaking Of Which.
Sporting first-time blinkers, Dermot Weld's charge stretched nine lengths clear of Soon for Pat Smullen, and will now endeavour to end Ballydoyle's unbeaten run of the same duration in the Irish Derby.
"We toyed with running him in the Irish 2,000 Guineas," Weld revealed of the 7/1 shot, "but when we worked him in a pair of visors, the further he went, the better he went. He's just a big idle horse, and the logical thing would be to come back here at the end of June."