THIS meeting belonged to Billy Lee as the rider bagged a stunning four-timer which began when Henry de Bromhead took the wraps off a lively classic contender in Star Girls Aalmal in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Race.

This four-runner seven-furlong contest was the opening event on the card and what it lacked in numbers it more than made up for in quality with the winner really capturing the imagination on her first outing since an impressive maiden win at Dundalk in November.

An Elzaam half-sister to the high-class Create Belief, Star Girls Aalmal cruised through the race in second and didn’t need much in the way of encouragement to brush aside Prettiest as the last furlong loomed.

The 2/1 joint-favourite quickly moved clear and went to the line in commanding fashion to defeat her aforementioned 100-rated opponent by three lengths.

“It was her first go on grass but she handled it well and Billy was happy with her too,” said de Bromhead who trains the winner for John Phelan, Jarrod Lippiatt and Syed Momin.

“She’s in the Irish 1000 Guineas and the lads are keen to have a go so I’d say that’s where we will head now. I don’t know if I’ll have a filly like her to run in a race like that again.”

Sultanov’s success

The rider picked up both divisions of the older horses’ maiden on horses carrying the Ballylinch Stud colours and the second of these to strike was Paddy Twomey’s Sultanov Swing.

A daughter of American Pharoah out of a stakes-placed Galileo mare, this four-year-old newcomer was returned a very well-backed 11/10 favourite. From early in the straight she looked to have everything covered and she reached the line three lengths ahead of the useful jumper Hallowed Star.

“She’s the first horse I’ve had for Ballylinch. Billy likes her and thinks she will progress plenty,” stated Twomey.

Bengal pounces

The first division of that extended nine-furlong affair went to the Ballylinch-owned newcomer Bay Of Bengal (8/1) who is trained by Willie McCreery. The front-running True Artist seemed certain to score well inside the last furlong but somehow Lee conjured one final tremendous late lunge from the daughter of New Bay and this carried her to the front on the line. “She’s a very straightforward and honest filly and Billy felt that the ease in the ground was a help to her,” remarked McCreery.

Plunkett picks up

Billy Lee was also successful on Plunkett (9/2) who continued a good run for trainer Paul Flynn in the 47-65 rated handicap over a mile.

In the colours of the trainer’s wife, Claire Howes, the five-year-old lined up as a 13-race maiden but he reached the frame on a number of occasions last year.

This time Plunkett picked up well to lead over a furlong out and he maintained a decent advantage to score by just under three lengths.

Lyons and Keane

strike on the double

GER Lyons and Colin Keane picked up both three-year-old mile maidens and their brace began when Affogato made a winning start for the trainer in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Fillies Maiden. The 11/10 favourite ran very well for Conor O’Dwyer to finish fifth in a quality Curragh maiden last August after which she joined her current connections. Colin Keane’s mount was always well positioned on the pace and led from the turn-in but needed the line late on as Paris Peacock, who had chased her throughout the last two furlongs, closed to within a neck.

“There’s not a whole pile of her but she’s very sweet and very genuine and it’s a lovely start to her three-year-old career,” reported the winning rider, who was carrying the colours of Ray Grehan.

Lyons and the champion jockey promptly doubled their tally with Moony Beams (15/8) in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction (C&G) Maiden.

The Farhh gelding, who is owned by David Spratt, Sean Jones and Lynne Lyons, was a beaten favourite on all three of his juvenile starts but showed good form each time. His comeback fourth to Wexford Native at Navan last month also represented a good effort. The 87-rated gelding made the most of a low draw by going straight to the front and produced a willing display to reach the line half a length ahead of the staying-on Moe Sedway.

“He lets us down in Navan a few weeks ago. He got very antsy in the parade ring which isn’t like him so we put earplugs on him today and he toughed it out well,” reflected the rider.

Murtagh in form

JOHNNY Murtagh and Ben Coen also enjoyed a double which concluded with an emphatic success for Lyrical Poetry, in the Ballygallon Stud colours, in the fillies’ maiden over an extended nine furlongs.

Once again the benefit of front-running tactics at this track was highlighted as the daughter of Lope De Vega never saw another rival.

The well-related 9/1 chance maintained a strong gallop to the line to finish five and a half lengths ahead of Gradulations as she got back to the form of her fine debut fourth to Trevaunance at Cork last September.

“She was a very nice filly last year and we ran her in a listed race after her good run first time. She was always going to be a better three-year-old and that was impressive. I’d say she’s a filly who will go on any ground,” reflected Murtagh.

Knightlaila progresses

The three-year-old mile handicap could hardly have worked out better for the trainer as he sent out a one-two which was led home by new recruit Knightlaila.

After being placed in two Dundalk maidens for Andy Slattery at the start of the year, the son of Decorated Knight was snapped up by the Australian outfit OTI Racing. He was back in midfield and had plenty to do turning for home but he raised his effort in really likeable style to lead at the furlong pole and defeat Eighty Eight by a length. He could progress substantially as he moves up in distance.