Pedro lands eventful Phoenix

Pedro The Great, ridden by Seamus Heffernan, gave Aidan O’Brien a record twelfth Keeneland Phoenix Stakes success at the Curragh yesterday.

The 10/1 shot was the shock winner of a dramatic race, in which his better-fancied stable-companion Cristoforo Colombo — apparently full of running — clipped the heels of favourite Probably and crashed with Joseph O’Brien at the furlong-pole.

Meanwhile, Heffernan had gone for home on Pedro The Great. A first Group 1 winner for his sire, Henrythenavigator, he stayed on through the testing ground (following torrential showers) to beat Leitir Mor by two and three-quarter lengths,

Following three withdrawals, only six went to post for the Group 1 feature. Charles O’Brien’s filly Lottie Do, which finished third, was ridden by Pat Smullen, following an incident leaving the parade-ring, in which her intended partner Johnny Murtagh was dumped and sustained a suspected fractured left jaw.

After a dramatic, anti-climactic race, Aidan O’Brien said: “Joseph is fine, but Cristoforo Colombo has a deep cut on the inside of a leg. This (Pedro The Great) is a smart horse. He won his maiden impressively, but was a bit fresh the last day (in the Railway Stakes). So we decided to take our time with him today.

“He’s a half-brother to Footstepsinthesand and won’t mind stepping-up to seven furlongs. It’s very possible he’ll come back here for the National Stakes next month.”

The winner is generally a 33/1 chance for the 2013 Qipco 2,000 Guineas.

Earlier, the Dermot Weld-trained Famous Name made his long-awaited breakthrough at Group 2 level when slamming Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby runner-up Born To Sea in the Keeneland Royal Whip Stakes.

The remarkable seven-year-old tracked Bob Le Beau from the start, was allowed ease into the lead at the two-furlong pole by Pat Smullen, as Johnny Murtagh began to send out distress signals on the marginal favourite. Famous Name then powered clear to triumph by six and a half lengths, registering his nineteenth career success.

Weld stated: “He’s an amazing horse. That’s 19 wins, 18 at stakes level, which must be close to a record. He’s a wonderful tribute to his owner-breeder. His enthusiasm for racing and training is what a racehorse should be all about.”

Non-committal about immediate plans for Famous Name, Weld explained that the recent Meld Stakes in Leopardstown and yesterday’s event became his targets when a decision was made to swerve a return to German in search of a Group 1 pot. The Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes now looks a likely, but far from definite, target for the son of Dansili.

Winning rider Pat Smullen completed a double in the concluding Irish Field Handicap when the Mick Mulvany-trained Jembatt, beaten at Sligo on Wednesday, proved too strong for the flattering Joe Eile.

Back at the Curragh, where he enjoyed his greatest success as a jockey (with Zagreb and Princess Pati), rookie trainer Pat Shanahan landed the Group 2 Keeneland Debutante Stakes when My Special J’s (12/1) reversed recent Leopardstown form with the John Oxx-trained hot-pot Harasiya (2/5).

Ridden by Colm O’Donoghue, the American-bred filly dug deep to hold Johnny Murtagh’s mount by a neck, after the runner-up had looked sure to score when cruising through to challenge.

This win represents a major breakthrough for trainer Shanahan, who received his licence in March after a long career in the saddle. This was his fourth success in his new role and, easily his most significant. Shanahan explained “I knew she was in super form. I rode her yesterday morning and was thrilled with her. I knew she had definitely come on 7lb. from Leopardstown, but I wasn’t happy when the rain came. She’s American-bred and I’m hoping she’ll be an even better filly on better ground. She’s a very gutsy, big hearted and very sound filly.”

Summing up plans for the filly, owned by Jim Long’s Thistle Bloodstock Ltd., the trainer explained: “She’s not in the Moyglare and won’t be supplemented. She’s had three hard races and deserves a short break. She’ll probably go for the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp on Arc day.”

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