Aidan O’Brien's More Beautiful wins first race in Ireland since March

Local children watch the first race from outside Naas Racecourse. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Local children watch the first race from outside Naas Racecourse. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

More Beautiful ensured Aidan O’Brien got off to a winning start as Irish racing resumed at Naas on Monday.

The Ballydoyle handler claimed Sunday’s Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket with Love, and More Beautiful was a similarly impressive winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden – the first race staged in Ireland following the coronavirus shutdown.

Seamie Heffernan was always to the fore on More Beautiful, who boasts an excellent pedigree as a daughter of War Front out of Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Maybe.

More Beautiful was clearly in control with two furlongs to run and she stretched away in the closing stages to triumph by a very cosy three and a half lengths from Roses Blue.

Betfair immediately made More Beautiful the 7-2 favourite for the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday week.

More Beautiful, ridden by Seamus Heffernan, comes home to win ahead of Roses Blue, ridden by Shane Foley. Photo: INPHO/Caroline Norris
More Beautiful, ridden by Seamus Heffernan, comes home to win ahead of Roses Blue, ridden by Shane Foley. Photo: INPHO/Caroline Norris

Hefferan said: “She’s a War Front and every one of them have a lot of ability. She couldn’t have done it any easier and I liked what I felt today.”

Lucky Vega denied O’Brien and Heffernan a quickfire double as he outpointed 4-6 favourite Lippizaner in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF (C & G) Maiden.

Lippizaner was the only runner with previous experience and it looked as though he would register his first win as he assumed command in the six-furlong heat.

However, Lucky Vega proved too strong up the rail and was half a length in front at the line, with Alex D staying on for third.

Winning trainer Jessica Harrington is not permitted on track as the coronavirus protocols employed by Horse Racing Ireland preclude over 70s attending meetings.

Social distancing in the parade ring before the first race. Photo: INPHO/Caroline Norris
Social distancing in the parade ring before the first race. Photo: INPHO/Caroline Norris

Her daughter Kate was on hand and said: “You would have to be happy with him. He never came off the bridle at home and Shane (Foley) said he was very green throughout the race.

“He was on the grass once or twice at home, but that was it and they were only steady bits.

“We thought he was a nice horse and it’s great to see him do it on the track. He showed a great attitude in the finish and he’s only going to improve.

“Mum will talk to the owner and see what he wants to do. He’s a big horse and I’d say he’s only 80 per cent there.”

Foley made it a double as Parkers Hill finished with a flourish to land the second division of the Clinton Higgins Chartered Accountants Handicap.

The first division had gone the way of Nordic Passage (14-1), who shrugged off the burden of top-weight to claim a three-and-three-quarter-length verdict in the hands of Donagh O’Connor.

The winning rider said: “He carried me through the race beautifully – I hit the front too soon, but I got carried there. He’s a horse with loads of ability and has his problems.

“The last day in Dundalk he was too free with me and we said we’d step back in distance. He floated on the ground and he only had one race before on grass.

“He’s unexposed on the turf and we are really looking forward to him now.”

Of the protocols being enforced on course, O’Connor added: “All the procedures here at the racecourse are going very smooth and it’s all working perfectly. We are just delighted to be back and long may it last.”

It was a treble for Foley when Punita Arora sprang a minor surprise in the Kuroshio At Compas Stallions Committed Stakes.

The Harrington-trained filly was sent off a 22-1 chance after disappointing on her return at Dundalk in March before the coronavirus shutdown.

Foley settled his mount towards the rear of the pack in the early stages of the Listed heat and still had a handful of rivals in front of her with a furlong to run.

However, Punita Arora responded to Foley’s every urging and she fairly flew down the middle of the course to collar Alligator Alley on the rail in the shadow of the post.

Punita Arora had a length in hand at the line, with the fast-finishing Pistoletto a further half-length back in third.

Paddy Power offer 25-1 about her chances in the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal meeting.

Kate Harrington said: “We have to thank Will Hayes for his work over the last couple of weeks because she’s been very difficult in the stalls. She was still slow out of them but didn’t rear today, which was the main thing.

“Shane always said he thought it’d really play into her hands the fact that they’d go hard because she loves following.

“We’ll see what the owners want to do, but the Commonwealth Cup could be an option next week. We’ve always held her in high regard.

“She’ll get confidence from the stalls from today and if she could iron that out, there could be a little more improvement hopefully.”

A fantastic day for Foley and Harrington was rounded off by the victory of Masteroffoxhounds (9-2) in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF (C & G) Maiden.

Kate Harrington said: “This horse was meant to go to China, but because of coronavirus couldn’t go and we have reaped the benefit of it.

“He’s a nice horse and we haven’t had him that long as he was in quarantine and Conor Hoban did a bit of pre-training with him. He’s been with us about six weeks and fair play to Conor.

“It’s been a great day and hopefully we can keep it going. We thought we had a nice group of horses and it’s really exciting.”

O’Brien and Heffernan completed doubles thanks to Elfin Queen (13-8 favourite) in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.

The rider said: “She had three OK runs last year and she’s strengthened up a good bit. She won well today and hopefully she will keep progressing.”

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