DERMOT Weld has high hopes for Sapphire after the progressive filly saw him land the Kerry Group Noblesse Stakes for the third time in four years at Cork yesterday.
The 11/8 favourite travelled kindly under an assured ride from Pat Smullen, hitting the front well over two furlongs out and quickening impressively on soft ground.
Betterbetterbetter -- last seen finishing eighth in the Oaks at Epsom -- came out of the pack in pursuit, but it was all in vain as Sapphire had almost five lengths in hand at the post.
"She's very progressive and I'll probably bring her back to a mile-and-two (furlongs) now for the Group One Pretty Polly at The Curragh," explained Weld. "She'll probably have to travel as the year progresses. She's just a class act and she does like an ease in the ground."
British raider Mirza was on the mark in the Galtee Midsummer Sprint Stakes as Rae Guest's 2/1 favourite finished strongly under Fran Berry to edge out My Girl Anna by half a length.
"We could have gone for the Wokingham (at Royal Ascot) but you could run the race of your life there and finish sixth. To come here and pick up this sort of money is fantastic," said the trainer.
Berry doubled up for the day on Charles O'Brien's 6/1 chance Edith Cowan in the Golden Olive Maiden.
Champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins enjoyed a rare two-year-old winner as Blue Bullet made a successful debut in the opening juvenile maiden.
Winning jockey Gary Carroll said: "He broke well and travelled well and was very tough. He got headed but really stuck his head out -- which I liked. He's a great ride for a two-year-old."
In the 12-furlong handicap, blinkers helped Paul Hennessy's First Friday get off the mark at the 19th attempt in the hands of Seamus Heffernan, while Pat Flynn's Chois The Idea was on the mark in the six-furlong handicap under a fine ride from Danny Grant.
Trainer Andrew Oliver and jockey Chris Hayes combined to take the Charleville Cheese Handicap with Potomac, while the finale went to the George Kent-trained Custom Cut to give Grant a double of his own.
Over in Chantilly, Aidan O'Brien was out of the luck in the French Oaks, which was won by his former stable jockey Johnny Murtagh on 25/1 outsider Valyra.
Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, Murtagh was called in for the ride on the winner as she is owned by his retainer, the Aga Khan, who was landing the Prix de Diane for a record seventh time. Unbeaten French 1,000 Guineas heroine Beauty Parlour was all the rage and the 5/6 favourite looked likely to collect when cruising to the front under Christophe Soumillon.
But while she beat the rest of her opponents comfortably, she could never shake off Valyra, which wore down the market leader to claim the Group One prize, earning a 14/1 quote for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
"I was asked last Monday to come and ride her. I liked her straight away, but obviously didn't know if she was a Group One filly," Murtagh said. "During the race, she was very relaxed and I think that is her strength. She followed them through very easily and two and half out I knew we were going to get there."
O'Brien's Kissed cut out the early running under the trainer's son, Joseph, but dropped away tamely and was virtually pulled up. She was found to have suffered a leg injury, and was retired after the race. Stablemate Up, under Ryan Moore, was well beaten in seventh.