Finish for the ages as Ana denied by wily McCullagh

It was a case of the veteran versus the baby, and no quarter was asked or given.

Finish for the ages as Ana denied by wily McCullagh

The featured Irish Stallion Farms’ EBF Premier Nursery at Listowel yesterday produced a thriller, with Ernest Shackleton (Niall McCullagh) and Cocoon (Ana O’Brien) dead-heating for first place.

McCullagh is 45 and only Kevin Manning is older than him in the jockeys’ room. In stark contrast, Ms O’Brien, daughter of Aidan, is just 18.

Ana rode the perfect race, tracking B Cosmos, before sending Cocoon for home over a furlong down.

Cocoon looked all over a winner, but the wily McCullagh had other ideas and Ernest Shackleton finished with a flourish to force the judge into due consideration.

Said McCullagh: “It is the first time (in his career), I have ever thought it was a dead-heat. O’Brien commented: “I wasn’t sure, but it is great to dead-heat.”

Willie McCreery, fresh from a first ever Group 1 success with Fiesolana at Leopardstown on Saturday, was on the mark again when Queen Anne took the Irish Stallion Farms’ EBF fillies two-year-old Maiden.

Queen Anne is owned by Sheikh Mohammed and is the second horse – the first was Leading Actress at Cork – to win for the trainer in those famous colours.

Wayne Lordan soon Queen Anne bowling along in front and she kept finding in the closing stages to hold As Good As Gold.

Said McCreery: “It was a great day on Saturday, fantastic and it is great to come to Listowel and keep the run going.”

The hitherto very frustrating Duchess Of Andorra got her act together, under a no-nonsense Colm O’Donoghue drive, to land the Listowel Track Fillies Maiden.

O’Donoghue soon had Joanna Morgan’s filly in front and the daughter of Duke Of Marmalade never flinched the issue in the straight to win decisively. She was backed from 7-1 to 5-1.

Said Morgan: “She is very tough and actually genuine, but has just been running into better horses.”

Adeste Fideles went off favourite, but Aidan O’Brien’s charge was a big drifter near the off and performed accordingly, struggling home a well beaten third.

The moderate Listowel Mares’ Maiden Hurdle went to the Paul Nolan-trained Solita, ridden by Mark Walsh.

Walsh forced her into the lead over the final flight and Solita held on close home to beat Lenora by a short head.

A realistic Nolan said: “It wasn’t a great race, Mark gave her a lovely ride. She has won a bumper and maiden hurdle now and will make a nice broodmare.”

Count Of Carabass, trained by Hilary McLoughlin at Bansha, Co Tipperary, finally enjoyed a turn when justifying favouritism in the Feale Handicap.

Powerfully handled by Chris Hayes, the winner stayed on strongly in the straight to beat Fix It and Dans Girl by a neck and a nose.

“He’s been second three times this year, he really deserved to win,” reported a delighted McLoughlin.

Danny Benson gave Pleased As Punch, trained by Austin Leahy for JP McManus, a fine drive to win the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

Benson produced the High Chaparral mare to challenge at the last and then drove her to the front on the flat to beat Chakisto.

Said Leahy: “If coming out of this ok she might come back here on Friday for an amateur handicap hurdle.”

Jonathan Burke added to his double on Sunday when powering the John Nallen owned and trained Minella Tweet to a clear-cut success in the Bank Of Ireland Maiden Hurdle.

“We’ve always thought a lot of this horse, but he has had problems,” reported Nallen.

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