EVEN a week later, it seems scarcely credible that Aidan O’Brien’s Waterville and Wayne Lordan got up to win the Friends Of The Curragh Irish Cesarewitch but the pair duly struck gold in the shadows of the post to pull off what looked the most unlikely of victories.
A huge injection of cash which made this race the most valuable handicap in the history of the state at €600,000, transformed the standing of Irish Cesarewitch.
Those hoping for drama and intrigue to go with the money could hardly have hoped for a more gripping outcome as Wayne Lordan produced a ride for the ages.
For his part, Waterville (5/1 favourite) began the season as a well-touted unraced three-year-old with potential classic aspirations.
There followed odds-on defeats on his first three maiden runs but a handicap success at Limerick followed by a solid showing at Leopardstown indicated that this especially well related son of Camelot was heading in the right direction.
The market for this race suggested as much too as Waterville was returned the 5/1 favourite for his first run in two months but for most of the race supporters of the market leader were surely looking on in hope or perhaps even desperation more than expectation.
Waterville was last through the opening mile and still had the entire field to pass around three quarters of a mile from home.
At the entrance to the straight, it looked as though he might be stopped in his tracks as he went for a run down the inner but things soon started to open up for Waterville.
Entering the last couple of furlongs, he was much closer to the leaders but he still had to try and extricate himself from the inner.
Somehow Lordan was able to deftly angle out to the middle of the track without being stopped in his run. Even at this stage there was still more work to be done but Waterville finished with a great flourish to nail the classy dual-purpose mare Echoes In Rain in the final yards and get home by a neck.
The runner-up’s Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Lot Of Joy took third, with Ruling running fourth for Joseph O’Brien.
“I’m absolutely delighted for Wayne. He gave him an unbelievable ride. It looked impossible but Wayne knew the horse, he knew he was a baby.
“Physically he’s strong but mentally immature. It was a tough race and he was drawn wide. It looked impossible all the way but Wayne gave him a peach and his awareness through the race was incredible,” stated O’Brien.
“Through the winter and spring we thought he was a Derby horse but he was babyish and shy in his maidens. He then won very snug at Limerick and we knew the extra distance was a help.
“He’s a very exciting horse going forward and looks like he’s going to be at home over Cup trips. I think from next year onwards we’ll see what this horse can really do,” added O’Brien who was winning this race for the third time.
Meanwhile, this was a first win in the race for Lordan who stated: “Aidan filled me with confidence and said he’s a good horse, take your time don’t rush and take your chances.
“I took my chances down the inner but I eventually had to come out and he hit the line good.
“Going two miles against older horses is a long way for a three-year-old and I didn’t want to bully him. I was coming fast and just hoping I wasn’t going to get stopped. When you are finishing like that you can take the gaps.
“He’s very good work horse and might be a bit babyish. Some staying horses can take time,” added the rider.
FOR the second year in a row Art Power was operating on a different level to his rivals in the Group 3 William Hill Ireland Renaissance Stakes over six furlongs.
A fifth English-trained winner of this race in the last six years, the Tim Easterby-trained son of Dark Angel was sent off at even-money on just his third run of the season.
So far this term he hadn’t been at his best but his older form made him a compelling choice and he won accordingly from the front. David Allan’s mount was harried for a period by Ano Syra and then Just Beautiful but it was all one way traffic over the last furlong and a half as the grey dished out a three-length beating to compatriot Sam Maximus.
“He jumped travelled strong and put the race to bed when I wanted him to. We just felt if he’d relax he’d win and it’s good to see him put that below par run at Haydock behind him,” reported Allan.
“I would imagine he will be going back to Ascot for the sprint on Champions Day which he ran well in last year. He’s run plenty of good races in Group 1s and he deserves to win one.”
Last week was a particularly good one for the Joe Murphy-trained Lord Massusus who demonstrated notable versatility across five days.
On Tuesday he netted €18,000 for a premier nursery win over a mile at Listowel and here he dropped back to six furlongs to bag a further €16,000 in the Irish EBF Auction Series Race.
The John Bourke-owned son of Markaz found himself trapped in a pocket entering the last couple of furlongs and over this shorter trip one wondered whether he would have enough time to launch a telling charge over this shorter distance.
Gary Carroll got him into the clear towards the last furlong though and his mount responded in fine style and readily cut down Freedom Falls for a thoroughly convincing length-and-a-half triumph. The victorious 9/4 shot is owned by John Bourke.
“He’s a very versatile horse and I think he could make a lovely three-year-old,” stated Murphy. “The final of this series in Naas will be his final run this season. The trip was a bit short today but he needed to run to qualify for Naas.”
Rest of card continued over to 28
BASIL Martini became the second Joseph O’Brien inmate in four years to shed their maiden status in the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes as she upstaged a host of better fancied opponents.
A runner-up in three of her first four starts, the daughter of Starspangledbanner looked to have her work cut out just 12 days after being beaten a nose in a Punchestown maiden.
However, she would not be denied on this occasion with a bold front-running effort under Declan McDonogh.
Various rivals threatened at different junctures but none could find a way past as the unyielding 12/1 shot kept pulling out more to get home by half a length from the 28/1 chance Gan Teorainn.
The victorious daughter of Starspangledbanner is owned by Emily Magnier and Linda Shanahan.
“We’ve always had a high opinion of this filly. She’s run well each time apart from one time when I ran her back too quickly.
“We could look at the Breeders’ Cup for her now. She’s quick out the gates loads of tactical speed and will suit racing out there so that’s an option,” commented O’Brien.
The day began with a nice effort from Aidan O’Brien’s Espionage in the Williamhill.ie Irish EBF Maiden.
This colt began his career with a pleasing second to Alexandroupolis at Galway several weeks ago and the manner of this victory pays a handsome compliment to the last-named who looked one of the more exciting two-year-old maiden winners seen on an Irish racecourse this year.
Espionage (9/4) did have to contend with a drop back from an extended mile to seven furlongs but this was no problem for the son of Galileo who broke alertly for Ryan Moore to dictate the pace against the far rail.
With around a quarter of a mile to run Espionage already had most of his rivals at full stretch and he galloped out to the line in willing fashion to get home by a length and three-parts from his stablemate Sierra Blanca.
A step up to Group 3 level in either the Killavullan or the Eyrefield Stakes, both run at Leopardstown in the coming weeks, could be next for the winner.
There was another nice effort on show in the following contest where Starry Heavens (4/1) dominated the Irish EBF Median Sires Series Maiden over a mile.
Jessica Harrington’s charge, who is out of a half-sister to her trainer’s great champion Alpha Centauri, had run to an encouraging level on her first three outings but took things to a different level here.
Shane Foley got her to the front early on and the grey dominated the race thereafter. She held a good lead from a long way out and pressed on for home with over a quarter of a mile to run before finishing just over four lengths ahead of Mount King.
The daughter of Mastercraftsman carries the colours of her breeders, Healthy Wood Co Limited.
“This is the first time we have managed to get her out and get her to the front. She handles easier ground and I’d say we’ll try and get blacktype with her next. She will be a nice filly for next year,” stated the winning trainer.