Colin Keane capped his record-breaking campaign with a double in the final two races of the season at Naas – kickstarted by a memorable victory on 33/1 shot Yaxeni in the Colm White Bookmaker November Handicap.
Ireland’s champion jockey had his third title wrapped up long ago, and broke Joseph O’Brien’s previous all-time record for the number of winners in a season with three weeks to spare.
It was hugely fitting therefore that he added not just another feature-race success on the last flat turf card of the year but then immediately steered a winning favourite home, too, as the appropriately-named Team Of Firsts completed the double for him and trainer Ger Lyons.
Keane, who therefore finished with 141 winners, had to be at his best on Yaxeni.
The four-year-old filly, trying the marathon two-mile trip for the first time, helped to force the pace along with Torcello for much of the race.
But she was collared by eventual runner-up Powerful Aggie and appeared set for second at best until she rallied in the final furlong to hit the front again and win by half a length.
Keane then scored by an emphatic seven lengths as 7/2 favourite Team Of Firsts dominated the Congratulations To The 2021 Flat Champions Handicap.
“It’s been an unbelievable year. From the very start to the last day, we ride for some great people – there are great people around us,” he said
Paying his tribute to Keane, Shane Lyons, assistant to his brother, said: “It was a brilliant ride and it encapsulated Colin’s whole season in a few minutes there.”
He added of the winner: “To be fair to the filly she’s an absolute model of consistency. It’s the first time she’s stepped up to two miles and we knew she’d get it no problem. She thrives on that ground, she’s so one-paced but a good one-paced.
“She stays in training next year and it will be all about getting black type. Getting that trip on that ground she can step up in class as well, she might have to travel to the likes of France.”
Champion trainer Aidan O’Brien’s King Of Bavaria earlier retained his unbeaten record with an impressive victory in the Tally-Ho Stud Irish EBF Birdcatcher Premier Nursery Handicap.
?? Still unbeaten— Racing TV (@RacingTV) October 31, 2021
King Of Bavaria (No Nay Never) travels strongly under top-weight and forges clear to score in good style in the hands of Seamie Heffernan for trainer Aidan O'Brien at @NaasRacecourse ??@HoStud | @IrishEBF_ pic.twitter.com/Q174bBrGgH
The son of No Nay Never was saddled with joint top-weight in this valuable event, on the basis of his win in a strong maiden over five furlongs on debut at this course back in May.
The 11/2 second-favourite had not been seen since, but defied both his absence and his burden to take control in the final furlong under Seamie Heffernan for a decisive length-and-a-half victory from outsider Past Time.
O’Brien will give King Of Bavaria – co-owned by champion owner Sue Magnier – an opportunity next spring to prove whether he can move up to a mile and become a classic contender.
“We’re delighted with him – it’s a long time since he ran, and we were very worried about the ground,” said O’Brien.
“We thought he was a nice horse and thought he was an Ascot horse when we ran him here – but he just had a little bit of a setback and didn’t get back.
“We missed going to Leopardstown with him (for the Killavullan Stakes) – Mrs Stockwell’s horse (Glounthaune) went there instead.
“He has plenty of speed and obviously handles that ground – but handles good ground very well too.
“We’ll look forward to him next year, train him for one of the Guineas trials – and if we think he’s not going to get a mile come back to five or six with him, because he has plenty of speed.”
Noel Meade’s Joe Masseria broke his duck, in first-time cheekpieces, keeping on strongly in the final furlong to win the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden by almost two lengths under champion apprentice Dylan Browne McMonagle.
The gelded son of Fast Company, last seen finishing midfield over a furlong shorter here two weeks ago in a very valuable auction series final, appeared to improve for the move up to a mile – mastering Ruler Legend.
After the juvenile’s 10/1 success, at the sixth attempt, Meade – who enjoyed his first Group One triumph on the level this year with the Keane-ridden Helvic Dream in the Tattersalls Gold Cup – said: “It’s a lovely way to finish the season. The season was good to us on the flat, so we’ll be sorry to see the end of it.”
McMonagle has every reason to have similar feelings.
He said: “That was great. I’m delighted to get a winner for Noel today, because he has given me loads of opportunities throughout the year.
“It’s been an unbelievable year – what dreams are made of. To ride so many winners in the year has been amazing.
“I’m looking forward to next year already and I hope it’s as good. I owe a massive thanks to everyone who has helped and given me opportunities. It wouldn’t be possible without them.”
Henry de Bromhead might have designs on the champion jumps trainer crown this term – but demonstrated once again that he is universally adept across the codes when his Grade 2 and Grade 3-winning hurdler added a listed prize in the Finale Stakes.
The seven-year-old, having just his second start on the flat after a maiden win at Fairyhouse last autumn, was half a length too good for Azallya – staying on well under Billy Lee to justify his status at the 100/30 favourite.
De Bromhead said: “They are his conditions – he loves that ground.
“He’s in the Morgiana (Hurdle, at Punchestown next month) – so that would be a nice piece of work for that!”