Treble up for Ballydoyle as Kenya shows Classic promise
Fresh from his world record-equalling exploits at Ascot, Aidan O'Brien recorded a 25/1 treble and unleashed another Classic contender for 2018 at Leopardstown yesterday when Kenya took the step-up to Group Three company in his stride with victory in the Killavullan Stakes.
Just eight days on from a wide-margin win at Cork, the son of Galileo was given a positive ride by Donnacha O'Brien, who set sail for home early in the straight on the 7/4 favourite.
Mcmunigal tried to chase him down but stamina appears to be Kenya's forte and the market leader answered every question put to him by his rider to cross the line with a length in hand.
"He improved from his first to his second run and obviously has again," O'Brien observed. "Donnacha said he handles an ease in the ground and won't mind stepping up in trip. Donnacha said he was very happy with him and that he's a grand, big, genuine horse."
The Galileo colt was given a quote of 33/1 for the Epsom Derby and O'Brien added: "I think he'll be one for a Derby trial, whether he runs in a Guineas trial we'll see, but Donnacha feels he'll have no problem with a mile and a quarter.
"I'd imagine that will be it for this year. Obviously things can change, but more than likely that will be it."
The Ballydoyle team's first winner on the card came in the maiden for juveniles, in which his James Cook got off the mark with a workmanlike display.
An encouraging runner-up to Mcmunigal on his first taste of competitive action at Naas, the full-brother to the classy Found was always to the fore under Seamie Heffernan who kicked for home at the top of the straight.
Latrobe emerged from the pack and got close in the dying strides but never really looked like beating the O'Brien-trained 4/7 favourite, which held on by half a length.
Bound (5/1) completed the O'Brien hat-trick by landing the Trigo Stakes. The daughter of Galileo came into the race as an 11-race maiden but had showed talent, including when a close-up fourth at this Listed level at Naas last week.
She tracked the pacesetter Grandee until Heffernan made his move two furlongs out and while not putting the race to bed immediately, Bound eventually established a decisive advantage and saw off 6/4 favourite Cannonball by a length and three-parts.
Son Joseph was also on the mark. The young trainer had three runners in the Irish Injured Jockeys Nursery Handicap, and it was his Baroness, under brother Donnacha, which made a successful first foray outside of maiden company in the one-mile contest.
The 7/2 chance was to the forefront throughout before taking the initiative turning in and galloping clear of his rivals to score by three-and-three-quarter lengths from Magic Sea.
Pat Smullen kept himself in the hunt for the Flat jockeys title by guiding Dermot Weld's Contingent to an eye-catching debut victory in opening two-year-old maiden for fillies.
A daughter of Frankel out of Group One winner Proportional, the well-supported 9/4 favourite surged to the front inside the two-furlong pole and kept up the gallop to see off another debutant, Alghabrah, by the guts of two lengths.
Weld said: "She's a very talented filly, with a lot of potential, and next spring we'll decide which way we go with her. My immediate reaction was she's more of an Oaks filly, but we'll see what the spring brings. She could be very good."
Reigning champion Smullen is now four behind leader Colin Keane in the race for the championship.
Danny Sheehy drove Lucky Mistake (11/2) to victory for Adrian Keatley in the one-mile handicap, while the Tom Mullins-trained Grand Partner (6/1) denied 3/1 favourite The Last Indian by a length in the 12-furlong handicap.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Brutal (2/1) provided leading owner Sheikh Fahad Al Thani with another win in the saddle as he carried his own Qatar Racing colours to victory in the Corinthian Challenge Charity Race Series. The three-year-old cruised around before hitting the front in the straight and beating Circling Moon and Ibsen, with his clearly delighted rider punching the air as he passed the line.