Friday 13 December 2019

Grogan's long march to York pays off in style

Nick robson

John Grogan may have been unknown in Britain before yesterday, but after the heartwarming victory of Katla in the Coral Rockingham Stakes at York that should no longer be the case.

Even those who profess to know a bit about the Turf could have been forgiven for failing to have heard of the Cashel handler, given that he spends most of his time as a farmer. Grogan bred the Majestic Missile filly himself, still owns her and she is also the only horse he trains.

Despite having only won one of her five races in her homeland, she had run dual Group One winner Misty For Me to a length and a quarter at The Curragh in July. That ability was in evidence at halfway as she pulled Billy Lee to the front and powered clear to beat Barefoot Lady by six lengths.

"I just can't believe it, I lost my phone jumping up and down," said Grogan of the 5/1 winner. "I drove the horsebox here myself and we came over on the ferry, we set off at 5am yesterday and got here at 4pm.

"I'm a farmer based at Cashel, near where Aidan O'Brien trains but this is just unreal. I didn't think she'd do this, there'll be a party in Cashel tomorrow, that's for sure. There's a Group Two in France my son had spotted and we might have to go for that next."

Another Irish trainer was celebrating at Ascot and Charles O'Brien reckons Bewitched might have the potential to become a top-level sprinter after her powerful finish earned her the Models 1 Bengough Stakes.

O'Brien trains Bewitched for his mother Jacqueline and the Magnier family and has campaigned her regularly but not asked too much and this was her biggest test so far.

Backed into 6/1 in the Group Three event, she was well off the pace with a couple of furlongs to run but Johnny Murtagh found a smart change of gear and she passed Genki and Secret Witness to finish three-quarters of a length clear.

"She didn't have Group One form but that's her fourth stakes race this year," said O'Brien. "I would think that will be it for the season but she wouldn't have to find a lot of improvement on that form to make a Group One filly."

Also at Ascot, Ed McMahon and Richard Mullen continued their regular big-race successes on southern courses in the Sodexo Prestige Cornwallis Stakes when Electric Waves obliged at odds of 7/1.

At home, meanwhile, Paul Nolan got back among the winners at Fairyhouse when his Gala Dancer justified 10/11 favouritism in the Winter Festival 2010 Maiden Hurdle.

Gala Dancer, under Paul Carberry, moved to the front three out and two good jumps at the final two flights helped secure an eight lengths win over the staying on Moscow Storm.

Afterwards a relieved Nolan quipped: "I was looking at the table for the Trainers' Championship on the paper the other day and we were so far down it I thought about giving up to sell bananas or something!"

Regarding stable star Joncol, Nolan said: "We may run him in the two miles Fortria Chase at Navan before going for the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown. He will only run in either place if the ground is soft."

Lusk, Co Dublin, restricted one-horse trainer James Brennan was on the mark with his Information landing his maiden racecourse win in the Handicap Chase.

Ridden by Conor 'Pencil' Maxwell, the dual winning pointer, having his 29th start under rules, led after two out and stayed on well for a length and a quarter win over Schindlers Society.

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