Cesarewitch glory for Minsk

MINSK justified favouritism in the Hacketts Bookmakers Irish Cesarewitch in impressive style at the Curragh yesterday, highlight of a superb treble for trainer John Oxx.

Raised 12lb. for a recent win on the track and ridden by crack apprentice Sam James, the Dalakhani gelding powered clear to slam Cry For The Moon by five and a half lengths, repaying part of the hefty purchase price paid recently by Barry Connell as a dual-purpose investment.

Wearing Connell’s colours for the first time, Minsk stalked the leaders early in the straight before cruising into the lead and stretching clear to triumph in the style of a rapidly improving three-year-old.

Minsk was an eighth Irish Cesarewitch winner for local trainer Oxx, who admitted: “I thought the handicapper might have got hold of him - 12lb. seemed plenty. But it shows that when a three-year-old is improving, you don’t know how far he can go. And I wasn’t sure about him staying the two miles. The fact that there was no more rain in the last two days was a help.

“He’s a nice horse - he travels and picks up. And it’s great for Barry. It’s always good when somebody takes a chance and is rewarded. He won’t run again for me. He’s heading to Dessie Hughes’ in the next few days, heading for his new life, over hurdles.”

Minsk was the second leg of the treble for Oxx, successful earlier when Call To Battle landed the Manguard Plus 2-Y-0 Maiden, in which the Curraghbeg handled four of the 19 runners.

A son of Kings Best, Call To Battle made virtually all and stayed on stoutly. Oxx commented: “He’s a nice horse and ran well at Gowran and improved from the run. And he should improve again. He’s a quite a nice horse and will probably run in the listed Eyrefield Stakes (nine furlongs) at Leopardstown on the last day of the season. He should stay quite well.”

And the Oxx treble was completed when Johnny Murtagh guided Atlantic Swing to a facile success over favourite Azores in the Mongey Communications Fillies Maiden, scoring by almost four lengths and bringing Murtagh’s seasonal tally to 74, six ahead of reigning champion Pat Smullen, who reduced the deficit when winning the finale on Sapphire.

“She won well and isn’t a bad filly,” admitted Oxx. We might let her take her chance in the Trigo Stakes at Leopardstown.”

Aidan O’Brien declared: “Joseph says she should go to America,” after Homecoming Queen made every yard of the running to record an emphatic win in the listed Lanwades & Staffordstown Studs 2-Y-0 Fillies Stakes, confirming that the Holy Roma Emperor might take her chance in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies in Churchill Down next month.

The progressive filly slammed Absolute Crackers by more than four lengths. "!"

Johnny Murtagh initiated a personal double when British raider Eton Rifles justified strong support in the listed Go Racing In Kildare Waterford Testimonial Stakes.

The David Elsworth-trained six-year-old, formerly trained by Howard Johnson and owned by a syndicate headed by Graham Wylie, travelled strongly, close to the pace and looks set to for a convincing win when tackling front-running Cheviot. But the 5/4 favourite had to be driven out to seal victory by three-quarters of a length.

Sapphire, winner of her maiden on the opening day of the flat season, ended the Curragh's 2011 programme when landing the appropriately-named Go Racing In Kildare Finale Stakes convincingly under Pat Smullen.

Sapphire edged ahead with two furlongs to race and strode clear to beat Kissable by almost five lengths, prompting trainer Dermot Weld to explain: “She’s a lovely filly to train and has been game and consistent all season. She has run well every time and likes an ease in the ground.

“She was Group 2-placed the last day and it made sense to come back for a listed race rather than travelling for the EP Taylor next week. She’s a filly to look forward to next year. She has a lot of physical development in her. And I see her as a replacement for Profound Beauty.”

Jill Ballet, ridden by Shane Gray, complete a hat-trick when recording a facile, five lengths win over Balladienne in the Stephen Quirke Memorial Apprentice Handicap.

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