Pat Smullen double eats into Colin Keane’s lead in title race

The nip and tuck nature of the title race between Pat Smullen and Colin Keane was exemplified on two-year-old day in Naas as the nine-times champion registered a double and Keane a single success, balancing Tuesday’s outcome in Dundalk. Keane now leads 80-76.

Pat Smullen doubled-up on favourites Aurora Eclipse and London Icon and the performance of the latter colt, trained by Adrian Keatley for Alan Harte, proved the highlight of the day as he made most of the running to land the one-mile Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Maiden in convincing fashion from Night Of Power.

The Elzaam colt, third in a hot Curragh maiden on his debut, was sent off 9/10 favourite and gave his supporters no worries, scoring by three and a quarter lengths.

“We’ve though a lot of him since the spring, or since the day we bought him, really,” explained Keatley. “We were patient with him all summer, because he needed time, and he’s repaying the faith we have in him.

“Pat said he’d be better on nicer ground, that he never hit top gear out there today. We haven’t rushed him and won’t rush him, so we’ll see if he runs again this season – he’s in the Group 3 (Killavullan Stakes) at Leopardstown).”

Runner-up to Blue Ulluru on her debut at Fairyhouse, the Michael O’Callaghan-trained Aurora Eclipse justified 15/8 favouritism in the five-furlong Naas racecourse Maiden, beating Gottardo by a length and three-quarters to spark the Smullen double.

Smullen explained: “She was just beaten by a better one at Fairyhouse and, with normal improvement, she was going to be hard to beat. She did it well – when she met the rising ground, she really dug deep and galloped to the line well. She’ll be a lovely filly for next year.”

Who’s Steph continued the tremendous form of Ger Lyons and provided stable-jockey Colin Keane with his only success of the day when powering home in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.The Sean Jones-owned daughter of Zoffany, ninth to stable-companion Lightening Quick on her debut at Leopardstown, swept past flattering favourite Minnie Haha inside the final furlong and stretched clear to triumph by three lengths.

“She’s a lovely filly, but she was clueless when she ran at Leopardstown and was still very green today,” stated Shane Lyons. “But, when Colin gave her a thump, she stuck her head down and put it to bed quickly.”

He added: “She’s in the listed race at the end of the week (the Staffordstown Stakes at Navan on Sunday) and could go there. Or we might show her more respect by putting her away until next season. She’ll improve plenty and is a filly for next year.”

After what he admitted was a “brilliant weekend” (he rode Group 1 winners in Newmarket and Cnatilly), Seamus Heffernan partnered 4/6 favourite Flag Of Honour, trained by Aidan O’Brien, to an impressive, four and a half lengths win in the finale, the seven-furlong maiden, beating Jewel Maker and eye-catching stable-companion Kenya.

“He was horrendously green the last day here,” explained Heffernan. “But he won like a favourite should today. He’s a little bit nervy, but he has an engine.”

Johnny Murtagh described his trip to Naas as “a good day at the office”, having saddled a double with Mister Magic and Yolo Star for the Fitzwilliam Racing Syndicate.

No claims were lodged following the opening, six-furlong claimer in which the Murtagh-trained Mister Magic (Shane Foley) got the better of Moltoir by three-quarters of a length.

The winning trainer stated: “He has always shown plenty at home and we thought he was a good horse, but the ground went against him the last twice. This was a nice race for him and the better ground helped. I think he’s better than his mark and, depending on what the handicapper does, there might be another one in him.”

Niall McCullagh was on board Yolo Star, off the track since scoring at Cork in April, in the five-furlong nursery and the partnership delivered in emphatic style, beating Stewardess by two lengths.

“She had a niggling problem after she won in Cork and I was worried she mightn’t be fit enough for today,” explained Murtagh. “But she’s very tough and hardy and Niall said she’s a jockey’s dream to ride – she jumps and travels and keeps finding. Jill Richardson found her for ten grand in Doncaster and it was money well spent.”

Runner-up at Tipperary last time, Scoil Naisiunta proved an emphatic four and a half lengths winner of the nasracecourse.com Nursery.

Trained by Jim Bolger for his wife Jackie and ridden by Kevin Manning, the daughter of Intense Focus stayed on powerfully up the hill and Bolger indicated: “The cheekpieces woke her up a bit and she won well. She’s tough and she gallops. She’s in another nursery in Dundalk on Friday, so we’ll see how she is.”



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