Declan McDonogh doubled-up on course specialists An Saighduir and Billyford in Dundalk last night.
An Saighduir, trained by Andy Slattery, travelled well and stuck to his task in admirable fashion to beat Almadaa by a length in the opening, five-furlong Your Local Value Centre Handicap, recording his third win in four starts on the track.
Slattery said: “He’s moving better this year and is almost back to his two-year-old form. The handicapper is pushing him up all the time and I just hope he can translate this form to the turf when the time comes.”
McDonogh was also seen to good effect when the Liam Roche-trained Billyford completed a hat-trick and defied a 12lbs hike in the ratings when battling tenaciously to see off the courageous Rocky’s Pride and Toufan Express in the BWG Foodservice Handicap.
“That was a copybook ride. Declan had him in the right place all the way,” said a delighted trainer. “He needs good ground and while I’d love to have a crack at the Irish Lincoln, unless the ground dries up the Lingfield Derby would probably be a better option for him.”
Smashed in from 5/4 to 4/7 favourite, the Paul Deegan-trained Zahr Alyasmeen opened her account when wearing down front-running Kanes Pass to land the Family Value Median Auction Fillies Maiden by a half-length under a strong ride by Kevin Manning.
Deegan explained: “She was a big weak filly last year and we probably ran her back too soon at Leopardstown. She has done well over the winter and, as you saw, seven furlongs is probably a bit short for her. We’ll bring her here again over the next few weeks before she goes back on the turf. With a bit of luck, she might win another one or two.”
Kevin Manning looked set to complete a double on course and distance winner Patrimonium when he eased the 5/4 favourite into a narrow lead at the furlong-pole in the Chefs Kitchen Race.
But Joseph O’Brien galvanised Honourable Emperor, which had made the running and, after a good battle, Noel Meade’s charge got home by a half-length, prompting his trainer to comment: “A mile and a quarter is ideal for him and he likes this surface.”
Under a superbly patient ride by Nina Carberry, 9/4 favourite Discovery Bay came through strongly to take command inside the final furling and beat Paramount and Johnnys Legacy comfortably in the XL Amateur Handicap, continuing Charlie Swan’s fine strike-rate during Dundalk’s winter programme.
Brazilian rider Diego Diaz bridged a near four-year drought without a winner and celebrated his 30th birthday in style when Majtaj, trained in Sixmilebridge, County Clare by Joe Quinn, romped home a convincing winner of the first division of the www.valuecentre.ie Handicap.
Beaten over hurdles at Downpatrick on Wednesday, the Joanna Morgan-trained Sky Pilot bounced back to land the finale, the BWG Food Handicap, under a strong and determined ride by Pat Smullen, beating longshot Brecon Boy.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved