Graduate on course for Irish Derby

THE formidable partnership of Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen dominated the early exchanges at Gowran Park last evening, completing a superb treble with Notable Gaduate, Blue White Fire and Cannon Hill.

A half-brother to English 2,000 Guineas winner Refuse To Bend and Melbourne Cup victor Media Puzzle, Notable Graduate set the ball rolling when making all to justify 2/11 favouritism in the opening Rooftop restaurant At Gowran Park Race.

Following-up his maiden win at Tipperary, the Galileo colt dictated the pace and, in the closing stages, was always holding Last Crusade, which he beat by three lengths.

Pleased by the display, Dermot Weld earmarked the listed Nijinsky Stakes at Leopardstown on June as Notable Graduate’s next assignment, commenting: “He’s a lovely, big staying colt, relaxed and genuine, and progressing with every run. The next logical step for him is the Nijinsky Stakes at Leopardstown and, if things go well, I might consider the Irish Derby. Later in the season, he might be an English St. Leger horse.”

Blue White Fire, third on his debut over course and distance, provided Weld, Smullen and the Moyglare Stud Farm with a second success when landing the seven-furlong two-year-old maiden narrowly at the expense of the Joseph O’Brien ridden odds-on favourite Secretary Of State.

Smullen dictated the pace again but, hard at work with two furlongs to race before being joined and headed briefly by the runner-up, Blue White Fire stayed on stoutly to land the spoils by a head.

“Pat gave him a very good, strong ride,” stated Weld afterwards. “This is a nice, progressive colt. He’s been working well since his debut run when he learned quite a bit.

“He’s by Montjeu, so we won’t be in a hurry with him. He needs time to develop and strengthen. So he’ll get some time-off now. We might look at a listed race for him in July. He’s the type that should keep improving and is a nice prospect.”

Drawn sixteen of sixteen, Cannon Hill faced a tough task in the seven-furlong Irish Stallion Farms Maiden but, delivered late by Smullen, got the better of longtime leader Vastitas and the flattering Brazilian Breeze to complete the Weld/Smullen treble.

Runner-up in his three previous starts, the Holy Roman Emperor gelding, in the colours of Bert Firestone, triumphed by two lengths, prompting Weld to state, “He’s been very consistent and deserved a change of luck. He has just come up against superior horses on a few occasions.

“I thought he’d win today but being drawn on the wide outside didn’t make it easy. But the horse battled well when asked for his effort.”

Weld and Smullen were foiled in their bid for a four-timer when joint-favourite El Toreros was outpointed by 16/1 shot Orafinitis in the following Early Bird Green Fees At Gowran Handicap.

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