Loyal Focus foils big GPT gamble on Essex

THE Dermot Weld-trained Loyal Focus foiled a big gamble on Essex in the GPT Handicap at the first stage of the Galway Festival last night.

Loyal Focus came right back to his best form to score largely unextended by nine lengths and had this in safe keeping a fair way from home.

He was partnered by 19-year-old Matt O’Connor from Wexford, who was enjoying only his second success on the track.

Commented Weld: “The tactics worked to perfection. I told Matt to make it, but he said there were a couple of others who were anxious to go on.

“I then said to be in the first three and he did exactly what he was told. I think he is the best 7lbs claiming amateur in the country.

“Robert McNamara would have ridden the horse, but of course he couldn’t do the weight. This is the third ride Matt has had for us. He rode Dashing Romeo for me at the Curragh and did really well.

“The plan now is for Loyal Focus to come back here on Thursday for the Galway Hurdle.”

O’Connor grabbed the contest by the scruff of the neck when powering the six-year-old into a clear lead some three furlongs from home.

Essex tried hard to close, but was always fighting a losing battle, attempting to give a bucket of weight to his rival.

Impudent, again reluctant to start and coaxed around at the start by Ruby Walsh, went sideways when the tape went up and was quickly at the rear of the field.

In the circumstances, she ran a remarkable race, coming home strongly to claim a creditable third spot.

Weld, who has won the GPT Access Equipment EBF Maiden no less than 17 times, had his stranglehold on the race broken when Domestic Fund failed to cope with Aidan O’Brien’s Lucifer Sam.

It was a titanic tussle between the pair, with Lucifer Sam prevailing by a head. Domestic Fund tried to make all, but Kieren Fallon got a tremendous late surge from his charge to do the business.

Commented Fallon: “I would have been disappointed if he had got beaten. I had to come round them a bit, but he quickened up well and then idled in front. This is a track which teaches horses a lot.”

Said Weld: “The best horse won, but my fellow has such a good action he would have preferred better ground.”

Mick Quinlan, who is originally from Thurles, but trains at Newmarket, was on the mark when Hovering landed what looked a particularly moderate GPT Sligo Novice Hurdle.

Weld’s Lisselan Eagle was always an odds-on shot, but proved very disappointing. Produced by Ruby Walsh to hold every chance in the dip, he just could not get to grips with front-running Mrs Diniver.

In the end both were mugged by the winner and Paul Carberry, who swept past coming away from the last.

Quinlan, who will make the journey to saddle a couple of runners later in the week, was represented by his brother, Noel, who said: “It was a big ask first time over hurdles, Paul gave her a great ride.”

There was a second cross-channel victory when Richard Fahey’s Sadler’s Kingdom proved far too good for the opposition in the GPT Van and Truck Rentals Handicap.

Michael Hussey eased him ahead two furlongs down and Sadler’s Kingdom skipped away to score by two and a half lengths.

“He will run again this week, he’s definitely not going home”, exclaimed Fahey. Hussey, though, was suspended for three days for using his whip with excessive force and frequency.

Paul Townend, arguably the find of the season, gave well-backed top weight Emily Blake a copybook drive to easily land the GPT Cork Handicap.

It was the youngster’s first win at the Festival, but you can be virtually certain it won’t be his last! Emily Blake had a bad draw, but Townend had her out and away in flash and soon poised to launch a challenge.

She cruised ahead off the home bend and effortlessly lengthened away. Trainer, John Hayden, said: “She will have a break now and come back for a little race with a sprinkle of black type.”

Rainbow Dash, who performed poorly in a conditions event at Ballinrobe previously, was seen in a far better light in the more competitive GPT Dublin Handicap Hurdle.

Given a typically enterprising drive by Denis O’Regan, he kicked on down hill to the dip and had enough in reserve as Tai Lass finished with a flourish to get within half a length.

The winner wore cheekpieces for the first time over flights, although he had worn them on the flat previously.

The layers got a decent result when Pistol Flash, a 14-1 shot, ran away with the Bumper in the hands of John Thomas McNamara.

Joe Burns, who partnered runner-up Duartin, was suspended for two days for using his whip with excessive force and frequency.

The tote was €1,104,765, which was a new record for a Monday. The attendance was 22,595, up from 19,212 a year ago.

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