Bend bursts Van Nistelrooy’s bubble

UNBEATEN in three races Van Nistelrooy lost his record when proving no match for the tough Dermot Weld trained Refuse To Bend in the Group One Aga Khan Studs National Stakes at the Curragh yesterday.

It capped a brilliant weekend for Weld and stable jockey, Pat Smullen, who combined to take the Irish Leger at headquarters on Saturday.

Weld previously completed that particular double in 1994 when Definite Article landed the National Stakes and Vintage Crop the Leger.

Macedonian King and Roskilde enjoyed moments at the front, but it was Refuse To Bend who held all the aces once Smullen sent him for glory with well over a furlong to go. Van Nistelrooy was soon produced by Michael Kinane to hold every chance, but found little for pressure and the winner crossed the line a comfortable winner.

Said Weld: “I didn’t really expect that. He was a baby when he won first time out at Gowran Park and is very solid, nothing flashy.

“Our tactics worked perfectly. This horse stays really well and I told Pat to go when he was ready. I wanted the emphasis on stamina.

“My only concern was whether he would have the pace on this ground. On pedigree he will get a mile and a half.”

“He won’t run again this season and will be trained for the English 2,000 Guineas and, hopefully, we have a Derby horse on our hands.’’

Van Nistelrooy was very disappointing and it is hard too see him as a realistic classic candidate after this performance. Ladbrokes make Van Nistelrooy a 16-1 shot for the English 2,000 Guineas, behind Almushahar, 7-1, and Refuse To Bend at 12’s. Cashmans have Van Nistelrooy on 20’s, from 12-1, and offer Almushahar at 10-1 and Refuse To Bend at 14’s. They go 20-1 Refuse To Bend for the Epsom Derby.

Weld and Smullen won the Group Three Aga Khan Studs Blandford Stakes with Irresistible Jewel, who summoned up all her courage to outstay Chorist. The latter tried to make all and appeared to have Irresistible Jewel’s measure passing under the two furlong pole.

But the daughter of Danehill found plenty when the questions were asked, gradually wore down the leader and was in charge through the final hundred yards.

“She’s a classy filly’’, reported Weld. “We’re finally having our summer and, as a result, are winning lots of races. There are very good opportunities in Canada and America and she she could now be campaigned overseas.’’

The irrepressible Weld-Smullen duo rounded off a spectacular weekend when Faadhil, their fifth success of the two days, made practically all the running to beat first-timer Arawan in the EBF Maiden. “I thought he would win at Galway, but the ground beat him. He will have one more run this season, back here for the Beresford Stakes.’’

Dane O’Neill rode a terrific finish, against Johnny Murtagh and Michael Kinane, to force the Richard Hannon trained Umistim up in the dying strides to grab the Aga Khan Studs Solonaway Stakes.

Kinane’s mount Castle Gandolfo, very easy to back in the ring, made a brave attempt from the front and looked set to do the business for most of the journey. But lack of a recent outing took its toll in the last half furlong, as Blatant and Umistim closed with every stride.

In a driving finish O’Neill was seen to real advantage to land Umistim a short head winner over Blatant with Castle Gandolfo just a neck further away in third.

Said O’Neill: “It was looking a bleak a furlong and a half out, I couldn’t see us pegging back Castle Gandolfo. The thing about this horse, though, is how gutsy he is.’’

Hannon completed a double when Hurricana Alan was driven into the lead at the furlong pole by Michael Kinane to beat Mombassa in the Blenheim Stakes.

Jim Bolger’s Shizao, a promising second first time out at Leopardstown, made no mistake with an easy win in the Kildare County FC Maiden.

She travelled smoothly throughout for Kevin Manning, who gave her the office to head the front running Peratus with over a furlong to run.

Shizao lengthened in fine style to beat the staying on newcomer, Theoldladysays No, a cosy length and a half.

When Shizao hit the front, she edged left towards Peratus, but there was never a possibility of an amended result in the subsequent stewards’ inquiry.

Said Bolger: “She should be capable of upgrading herself, but there isn’t a whole lot left this season.’’

Powerful lightweight Niall McCullagh was seen at his strongest when forcing Lowlander ahead inside the furlong pole to take the EBF September Handicap and complete a hat-trick.

Said winning trainer, John Oxx: “He went up 11lbs for his last win and I thought that was the end of him.

“But he’s tough and you never know with horses like that. The good ground has improved him and he will now run in the Cesarewitch.’’

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