JOSEPH O’Brien was the dominant force on an informative card at the Curragh with a treble, headlined by a win in the €50,000 Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Premier Handicap for dual-purpose performer Nusret.
Mikey Sheehy produced a beautifuly well-judged ride to get the best out of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede’s four-year-old, who is now a 20/1 shot with the race sponsors for the Sky Bet Ebor on August 26th.
The 3/1 winning favourite seemed to relish coming through the pack to strike by half a length from Almuhit.
O’Brien said: “He loves that set up and is a talented horse on his day. He’s a Grade 2 winner over hurdles. He was delivered at the right time and it was a nice ride by Mikey.
“The Ebor is obviously his target now [after gaining an automatic spot in the race through this success]. He’ll probably run in something between now and then and could get into the Galway Hurdle.”
If history repeats itself, there is every chance that winning debutant Islandsinthestream will prove a high-class performer for O’Brien after landing the seven-furlong Holden Plant Rentals Irish EBF Maiden for two-year-olds.
It was in the same race 12 months ago that Futurity Stakes winner Crypto Force got the better of a luckless Auguste Rodin, while other winners in recent years include the five-time Group 1-placed Lope Y Fernandez (2019) and Royal Ascot/Group 2 winner Point Lonsdale (2021).
Islandsinthestream, by the highly exciting Wootton Bassett, wasn’t the quickest into stride and didn’t appear to have any rivals behind him with a furlong and a half to go, but the mount of Declan McDonogh quickened up impressively in a few strides to take over and score by a length for owners E S Racing, Mrs MV Magnier and Mrs P Shanahan.
O’Brien said of the 9/1 winner: “Historically this has been a good maiden and it looked like it again with the pedigrees on show. We didn’t expect him to go and win; we thought if he ran into a place that he would be hard to beat here in a month’s time.
“Declan was very impressed with him. He’ll probably be making his way into the Tyros or Futurity Stakes.”
Officials at the Curragh were not rewarded with a big field for the reintroduction of a bumper at the track but the Betting Better With Sky Bet Flat Race may still have thrown up a decent winner in the shape of Walk In The Park filly Lionnar.
Sent off a well-backed 9/4 shot in the colours of the Annus Mirabilis Syndicate, the mount of John Gleeson improved nicely from her debut fourth at Killarney to deny promising newcomer Beauforts Storm.
Gleeson, who filled in for the sidelined Tom Hamilton, began his Leaving Certificate exams earlier that morning.
Speaking after wrapping up his 129/1 treble, O’Brien said: “She’s a nice filly and could go for a winners’ bumper now. It’s great for the owners, who are great supporters of ours and have now had 96 winners.”
EXACTLY 30 years to the day since his first winner, the Pat Gilson-ridden Wandering Thoughts at Tralee, Aidan O’Brien got on the scoresheet through promising newcomer The Liffey in the six-furlong Oak Solutions Group Irish EBF Race for two-year-olds.
The Ballydoyle team did not strike with the runner expected by the market, though, with highly-touted stable representative Alabama turned over as 8/15 favourite in fourth.
Seamie Heffernan partnered the 8/1 winner to victory, with the No Nay Never colt, owned by the Coolmore partners, finding plenty for pressure on the front end to repel the fast-finishing My Mate Alfie.
O’Brien said: “He was working nice but first time out, we thought he’d be green. Seamus said he felt like he had loads of speed.
“You could say he’s an Ascot horse but maybe we might take our time and come back here for the Railway Stakes. He’s a big, powerful horse.”
O’Hara off the mark
Jessica Harrington delivered a poignant success in the Montane Developments Supporting Relay For Life Fillies & Mares Maiden as Scarlett O’Hara gained a deserved first success for owner Pat O’Kelly.
Sporting cheekpieces for the first time in a bid to build on back-to-back second-placed efforts, the three-year-old by Frankel saw out this mile-and-a-half test well from the front as 13/8 favourite under Nathan Crosse, who was deputising for the injured Shane Foley.
Goffs executive director Nick Nugent, representing the winning owner, said: “It was John Clarke’s funeral today. He would have done the matings for Ms O’Kelly and was advising her so it was quite appropriate on the day of his funeral that the filly should break her maiden. He would have booked the mare to Frankel and provided a bit of divine help today.”
Harrington and Crosse doubled up when 20/1 shot Blanc De Noir got off the mark at the seventh attempt for Stonestreet Stables in the Win 50k Weekly With ITV7 For Free Handicap over six and a half furlongs.
A three-year-old taking on older rivals, he found plenty to win by a length and a quarter in what proved a messy 21-runner handicap for some.
Assistant trainer Kate Harrington said: “He’s got a lot of ability and now that he’s got his head in front hopefully he’ll keep on improving.”
ROYAL Ascot is calling for the Fozzy Stack-trained Run Ran Run after he kept on well to claim the €45,000 Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Premier Handicap under Andrew Slattery for Cayton Park Stud.
But for a neck defeat when second on his sole start at two, the No Nay Never colt would have three wins from three Curragh appearances and Stack is now eyeing a tilt at the Palace of Holyrood House Stakes at the Royal Meeting. The Stack stable won this Curragh prize in 2017 with Son Of Rest, who finished second in the 2018 Flying Five Stakes before going on to dead-heat in the Ayr Gold Cup.
“The Ascot race would suit him as he needs to get there late and, presumably, there will be plenty of pace on,” Stack said of the 5/1 winner.
“He needs a bit of a whack to get into it but not too much that it compromises his chances. He doesn’t kill himself when he gets there and will never win too far.”
Easy for Miracle
There was also a popular local winner on the card when the unexposed Miracle Nation provided Kevin Prendergast with his first success of the season in the Murphy International Supporting Relay For Life Maiden over six and a half furlongs.
Owned by Michael Shefflin, the Sioux Nation filly picked up stylishly to score by three and a quarter lengths under Gary Halpin as 11/10 favourite.
Prendergast said: “We have her about three or four months so she could improve. She’s entered in the July Sale, I’m not sure if she’ll go there. He’s not a bad sire that Sioux Nation.”