A TREMENDOUS week on the trials front for Aidan O’Brien ended on a high as Stone Age put on an all-star display in the Group 3 Derby Trial Stakes to look perhaps his trainer’s most compelling Epsom contender to-date this season.
On the day he announced that Luxembourg would miss the Derby, the Ballydoyle trainer could take a great deal of solace from the performance of this striking Galileo colt who made it 15 wins in the race for O’Brien.
A colt who was good enough to finish second at Group 1 level as a maiden last season, Stone Age (10/11) bolted up in a Navan maiden on his comeback in March. He bossed this race from the front for Ryan Moore and he maintained an impressive and unyielding gallop for the duration of the straight to dish out a five-and-a-half-length beating to the Curragh maiden winner Glory Daze with the 107-rated French Claim a further neck away in third.
“He’s a high-tempo horse, he’s able to break well, he’s got a high cruising speed, plenty of pace and in all his races he’s always strong at the line,” said O’Brien. “I think he can improve more from here to Epsom. He’s a lovely, hardy horse and I don’t think Epsom will be a problem for him.”
Earlier the O’Brien-trained History earned herself a shot at next week’s Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas with a comeback success in the Group 3 Cornelscourt Stakes. On her first outing since winning a Gowran Park maiden last September, the Ryan Moore-ridden daughter of Galileo turned out in great shape.
Quite a few of the 11-runner field were in with a chance of some sort with over a furlong to run but nothing could match History in the closing stages. The 3/1 shot kept on strongly to defeat the Moyglare Stud Stakes second Agartha by three-quarters of a length with Honey Girl running a huge race to secure third.
“We came here with a view to whether she would run in the Irish 1000 Guineas or go for the Oaks. Ryan was very happy with her and the way she quickened there I think we’ll have to let her take her chance in the Irish Guineas,” commented O’Brien.
Ado does it once again
ADO McGuinness once again showed what he can achieve with the right material as Pretreville belied his position as the joint longest-priced runner in the field with an all-the-way success in the Group 3 Amethyst Stakes over a mile.
A very talented horse at his best in France, this seven-year-old didn’t show much on his first couple of starts in Ireland but here he lined up off an excellent second to Pearls Galore in the Heritage Stakes over this course and distance last month.
The 11/1 chance, who carries the colours of Shamrock Thoroughbreds, made all the running for Ronan Whelan and, after being afforded a decent lead by all bar Patrick Sarsfield he was not for catching in the straight. The progressive Ivy League came through to lead the chase in the closing stages but he was still a length and three-quarters adrift at the line. McGuinness said: “He could drop back to seven furlongs and we could look at Ascot but he likes a bit of time between races so it could be four or six weeks before we run him again.”
TOM Mullins, whose flat runners at Leopardstown always warrant more than a passing glance, supplied one of the biggest upsets of the season to date as the 66/1 newcomer Female Soldier bested a useful field in the Clayton Hotel Leopardstown Fillies Maiden over 10 furlongs.
This daughter of The Gurkha bided her time off the pace and had just three rivals behind her approaching the straight.
Billy Lee then unleashed her with a searing challenge on the outer over the last furlong and a half though and she defied her inexperience to nail Zaniyka in the closing strides with the evens favourite Ark a further two and a quarter-length away.
“I was hoping she might be placed but when I saw the field it looked a hot maiden. She looks very decent I’d say and she will probably be sold now,” commented the trainer who trains the winner for his wife Helen. One has to go back to 2015 to find the last season that Mullins failed to record a flat winner at Leopardstown.
The day concluded with a winner for Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning as Dublin Journal (8/1) added the 10-furlong handicap to the victory he recorded at Naas almost 13 months ago. The Jackie Bolger-owned four-year-old left an unplaced effort at Cork over Easter miles behind with a length success over Entropy after going to the front over a furlong from home.
“He’ll be one for the July Sale and will make a lovely jumps horse. He stays well and has everything for that game,” reported the trainer.
FUMATA (12/1) signalled that he could progress into a nice staying prospect for Jessica Harrington with a likeable success in the Captain Dara Fitzpatrick Memorial Maiden over a mile and a half.
This Newtown Anner Stud-owned son of Fastnet Rock arrived with his effort off the last bend but on his outer he had to contend with the menacing presence of the odds-on Waterville. Fumata had any amount in reserve and, when called upon by Shane Foley, he raised his effort to finish off strongly and carry the day by two and a quarter lengths.
“I was happy with his run the first day (fourth to Stone Age at Navan) and I’d say this trip is his minimum,” reported the trainer.
Harrington and Foley then followed up with Yashin (11/4) in the Fund A New Home For Festina Lente Handicap over a mile and a half.
Only four horses went to post for the this three-year-old race and Yashin had a little bit to do from third turning for home. However, he soon found his best stride and surged clear in the closing stages to hit the line three and a quarter-length ahead of Chaos Control. The victorious son of Churchill is owned by the Tom & Gerry Met Mickey Syndicate.
“We went from a mile to a mile and a half and it probably looked a bit stupid but we knew after the last day that he really needed to go a distance,” reported Harrington
“There was no maiden coming up for him so when this three-year-old only handicap came up we thought this was where he should be, because we thought he was probably quite nicely handicapped. Getting him gelded during the winter was the making of him.”
The day began with an odds-on success as Corporal Violette (4/6) progressed on runner-up finishes on both her starts last year to take the John R. Fitzpatrick Agricultural Contractor Maiden over seven furlongs. The Ger Lyons inmate was produced to challenge by Colin Keane heading towards the final furlong and edged into a narrow lead to hold off the persistent effort of All In The Mind by a head.
“Mentally she has plenty of growing up to do. She won’t run on ground that quick again and pure ability won it for her today,” commented Lyons whose charge is owned by Rick and Catriona Gaynor of Gaynor Bloodstock LLC. “She’ll step up to a mile now and will go a mile and a quarter by the end of the season.”