On a Dundalk card on which punters had a dream start, with three consecutive winners justifying heavy support, Colin Keane took two significant steps closer to becoming champion jockey for the first time, and the impeccably-bred Alexander Gordon extended her unbeaten record to three with success in the feature.
Keane was out of luck aboard a fancied runner in the opener, but was off the mark for the evening little more than half an hour later when guiding Art Of Unity to victory in the Irishinjuredjockeys.com Nursery.
Backed from a high of 15-2, to a starting price of 11-4, he came late and fast down the far side to win with something in hand.
The victory continued the great run of trainer Noel Meade, who was on the mark with Monksland over hurdles on Thursday at Thurles, and Art Of Security on the Flat on Wednesday at Navan.
Keane had to wait until the final race to complete his double, which he did by making all the running aboard the Prunella Dobbs-trained Carried. Dictating under a controlled ride, he committed for home turning in, quickly had all his rivals in trouble, and stayed on strongly to bring the rider’s tally for the season to 94.
The win carried Keane him seven clear of Smullen in the jockeys’ championship and, with the reigning champ sitting out today’s action due to a suspension, he has seven more opportunities to extend what is now looking like an unassailable lead.
The listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Cooley Fillies’ Stakes topped the bill and the Jim Bolger-trained Goldrush showed determination to match her breeding.
By the imperious Frankel out of a multiple Group 1-winning mare, Alexander Goldrun, who also trained by Bolger, she was unraced as a two-year-old but has been making up for lost time these past few weeks.
The filly, who cost €1.7m as a yearling, made her belated debut in September, when she belied a lack of market confidence with a runaway success, and then followed up in a listed race at this track, just two weeks ago.
The latter race was over 10 furlongs, a trip over which her sire and dam were both successful at Group level, but she made light of the drop back to a mile this time.
Never far off the pace, under Kevin Manning, she hit the front early in the straight and, in a very competitive race, dug deep to hold off Aneen by half a length.
The margin of victory was small but she left the impression there was more there if required, and looks a most exciting prospect for next season.
“I didn’t think the drop back to a mile would inconvenience here as she won over a mile on her debut, at Navan, and showed plenty of pace,” said Manning. “She’s a filly on the up, and one for the future.”
Midnitemudcrabs (5-4) set the ball rolling for punters when taking the opening race, the www.dundalkstadium.com Fillies’ Claiming Race. Ridden by Gary Halpin for trainer Johnny Feane, she led early but had to pull out all the stops to record her third career victory, which she did by three parts of a length, from Maysonette.
Morning favourite Harvestfortheworld was a non-runner from the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Maiden and, in his absence, the market spoke strongly in favour of the John Oxx-trained Night Of Power. Sent off an 11-10 chance, he was sent to the front early by Declan McDonogh, and won a shade cosily from Kalaxana, ridden by Smullen, with Bring On The Band and Colin Keane back in third. The winner paid a nice compliment to London Icon, who had beaten him quite comprehensively at Naas, albeit on ground that may not have suited the runner-up.
Smullen was aboard the favourite and Keane the second-favourite in the Crowne Plaza Leading Jockey & Trainer Championship Handicap, but neither could land a serious blow as Indian Tomahawk (13-2 to 4-1), ridden by Billy Lee, provided up-and-coming trainer Richard O’Brien with another winner.
O’Brien, who took out his licence in late 2016, has impressed with his handling of four-time winner Tom Dooley and three-time winner Alans Pride, and this was an 11th winner of the season for the Ballingarry, Co. Limerick-based trainer.
In the Crowne Plaza Hotel Race & Stay Handicap the Anthony McCann-trained Chicago School was brought with a telling late charge by Conor McGovern to land the spoils at the expense of Peace Mission.
The biggest upset of the evening came in the first division of the Irishinjuredjockeys.com Handicap, in which 33-1 chance Gilded Reflection provided further frustration for Pat Smullen, who was just touched off aboard gambled-on favourite Miss Snossyboots.
Making her debut for Niall Madden and ridden by his son, Tom, the former David Wachman and Ralph Beckett-trained four-year-old filly looked a nice prospect when getting off the mark at the ninth time of asking.
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