Off the track since chasing home Sariska in the Darley Irish Oaks last July, Roses For The Lady was sent off 6/4 favourite to make a successful start to her four-year-old season and, opposed in the market by British raider Merchant Of Dubai, set out to make all under new stable-jockey Fran Berry.
Pressed all the way by the Robert Winston-ridden second favourite, Roses For The Lady set a strong pace and, to her credit, kept finding plenty in the closing stages to score by three lengths.
A relived John Oxx commented: “She was fit and ready. But I was terrified about the fast ground. Ideally, she needs plenty of cut to produce her best. But we got away with it. And it’s great to win a stakes race with a well-bred filly like this, after finishing second in the Irish Oaks.”
The Yorkshire Oaks is a possible target for the daughter of Sadler’s Wells, as Oxx added: “She’s in the Yorkshire Oaks, but will only go there if the ground is on the soft side. We’ll keep an eye on the weather forecast. She really needs an ease. She stays well and should get two miles as the season goes on.”
The colours of Oxx’s wife Caitriona were carried to victory at Gowran Park by debutant Aznavour, a strapping Azamour colt which, ridden by Niall McCullagh, proved a convincing winner of the Membership Open At Gowran Park Golf Club Maiden, which he won by four and a half lengths.
Jim O’Neill, Oxx’s assistant, said: “He’s only been going through the motions at home. He’s very lazy, but woke up when he got here. His dam was a stayer, but Azamour has injected some speed into him. Her should improve plenty and is a nice prospects.”
Similarly, after Lingapour made all to beat odds-on favourite Baglioni a neck in the Irish Stallion Farms Race, O’Neill said: “He always works as if he’s a decent enough horse. But the first-time blinkers made a big difference. They really sharpened him up. I suppose he’s a handicapper and would like better ground. He’s very relaxed and should be able to stretch out in trip, to a mile or ten furlongs.”
Lingapour gave apprentice Ben Curtis his second win of the season and his first his new boss since joining the Curraghbeg team this spring.
Local trainer Jim Bolger was in Gowran Park, where Ceannline, set to go handicapping, landed Open Singles Every Thursday At Gowran Park Golf Club Maiden under Kevin Manning, missing the victory of Akdarena in the listed Salsabil Stakes at Navan.
Having viewed the Navan race on TV, Bolger commented: “She doesn’t do much at home so I don’t know a lot about her. She swished her tail but keeps going and will stay further.”
And when asked about plans for the daughter of Hernando, Bolger replied: “We’ll have a look at the Irish Oaks now.”
Akdarena, owned my Kirsten Rausing, was ridden by Davy Moran, who completed a double in the concluding Family Day Handicap on the Ger Lyons-trained Ghetto Gospel.
Although the Navan card featured two listed race, Miss Gorica produced the performance of the day, shouldering the massive burden of 10-8 to victory in the six-furlong Navan Handicap, making virtually all under former champion Pat Smullen to beat He’s Got Rhythm (receiving 30lb.) readily.
The performance delighted and surprised trainer Joann Morgan. “She ran here as preparation for a listed race at Cork next week and only because Navan is almost on our doorstep. Pat says she feels faster this year, so we’ll probably stick to five and six furlongs this year. And the shorter distances help her breathing,” said the trainer.
“She was covered by Dylan Thomas recently and, all going well, we’ll head for Royal Ascot with her in June, for the Wokingham.
Johnny Murtagh doubled-up at Navan with the Michael Halford-trained Airspace, which registered an overdue win in the five-furlong Irish Racing Calendar Maiden and Ballydoyle colt Rain Forest, which got the better of Dermot Weld’s Minsky Mine in the Dunderry Maiden.
Rain Forest was also the second leg of a double for Aidan O’Brien, who saddled first and s second in the Irish Stallion Farms 2-Y-0 Fillies Maiden, when So Stylish, a Johannesburg half-sister to One Cool Cat, ridden by Colm O’Donoghue, showed plenty of pace throughout to foil Murtagh’s mount Catherineofaragon.
Curragh trainer Tracey Collins completed a big-priced across-the-card double when Lough Mist (20/1) gave veteran rider Pat Shanahan his second win of the season in the five-furlongNavan Chairman Handicap and Bellini Bliss proved a 25/1 shocker in the fillies maiden at Gowran Park.
Ridden by Mick Hussey, Bellini Bliss made virtually all and held off favourite Bea Remembered by a half-length with the flattering Brazilina Beauty a close third.
Sheena Collins, representing her sister, said: “It’s good day for the Collins family, a winner at both meetings. Long may it last! This filly had the makings of a nice three-year-old last season. Mick gave her a great ride. And I’d imagine she’ll go for a ‘winners of one’ somewhere.”