Stubbs books Royal Ascot place with convincing win

Favourites Stubbs and Sandiva emulated Dawn Approach and Sky Lantern respectively when justifying favouritism in the listed two-year-old races in Naas yesterday.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Stubbs, a red-hot 8/13 favourite, foiled British raider Sacha Park in the Alfred Nobel Rochestown Stakes before Mandiva, trained in England by Richard Fahey, followed-up her debut success at Nottingham in the Coolmore Stud Fillies Sprint Stakes.

In a muddling race, Stubbs was soon prominent in the Rochestown and readily forged clear inside the final furlong to beat Sacha Park by a length and three-quarters.

Aidan O’Brien was not present but Joseph commented: “It was a messy race. We hacked for the first two furlongs but he’s an exciting colt and did it well. I’m sure he’ll be heading for Royal Ascot now.”

Also Royal Ascot-bound — for the Albany Stakes — is Sandiva, a smooth winner from Heart Focus in the listed fillies event.

Soon close up and travelling sweetly for Pat Smullen, Sandiva always looked the likely winner and picked up well in the final furlong to win by two lengths.

Nick Bradley, representing Middleham Park Racing, who own the filly, said: “I though she won easily in Nottingham, when she was very green. But she was more impressive today.

“She has a good pedigree and is ready to step-up in class again. We have turned down a lot of money for her but, after today, I’m glad we did. We’ll see what Richards says, but I think the Albany Stakes in Royal Ascot is her likely target now.”

Big-race heroes Joseph O’Brien and Pat Smullen both recorded doubles, O’Brien landing the first listed event on the card, the Owenstown Stud Stakes on Reply.

Runner-up in the Group 3 Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh last week, Reply won with plenty in hand from Tobann. Joseph commented: “He seems to be improving with racing but quick ground is the key to him.”

Pat Smullen completed his double when Connacht Council, in the colours of the GAA Legends Syndicate, got up on the line to pip Zalty and Lightnin Hopkins by a couple of noses in the Follow Us On Facebook Handicap.

Blinkered for the first time, Connacht Council was continuing the excellent for of Willie McCreery’s string.

“We’ll probably look at a Group 3 in France for her,” said trainer-rider John Egan after Ramsa, runner-up on her debut over course and distance before finishing unplaced in a Group 3 (won by Just Pretending) at Leopardstown, landed the opening seven-furlong fillies maiden.

In front early in the straight, the Shamardal filly held on under pressure to beat fast-finishing Ballydoyle filly and well-backed favourite One True Love by a nose.

Successful at the Curragh last time, the Michael Halford-trained Slipper Orchid swooped late under Shane Foley to deny Tarrsille in the www.thetote.com BBQ Evenings Handicap, prompting Halford to state: “She’s tough and genuine and improving, but that ground is as fast as she’d like. We have both this filly and the same owner’s Ondeafears for the valuable seven-furlong fillies handicap at the Curragh on Derby weekend.”

Halford and Foley were denied a double when Drifitng Mist failed by a half-length to catch the David Wachman-trained Love And Cherish (Wayne Lordan) in the finale, the Tipper Road Fillies Handicap.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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