Caroline and Johnny Murtagh have last laugh after Jocular success

Five-time champion-jockey and four-time Irish Derby winner, Johnny Murtagh savoured his first Derby success as a trainer when 20/1 shot Jocular proved best in a blanket-finish to the Done Deal Apprentice Derby at the Curragh last night.

Caroline and Johnny Murtagh have last laugh after Jocular success

And to make the victory of the Qatar Racing-owned gelding even sweeter was the fact that he was ridden to victory by Murtagh’s daughter Caroline.

Jocular forced the pace and soon enjoyed a clear lead. The pack closed before the straight. The four-year-old was headed over two furlongs out, but responded well to his rider’s driving, rallying and staying on stoutly to regain the advantage inside the final furlong before holding the late challenge of On A Pedestal by a half-length.

A jubilant Murtagh, who explained that Caroline has been riding out for Eddie Lynam for the last week, explained: ”Caroline and myself ran the track this morning and made a plan which she followed perfectly. He’s a horse with a powerful, long stride and we’ve probably been riding him the wrong way. He’s very genuine and tough and might come back here for the Ladies Derby on Oaks weekend.”

Aidan O’Brien introduced a potentially top-class two-year-old filly Alice Springs (6/4 favourite) to win the opening maiden in emphatic style under Seamus Heffernan, prompting her trainer to comment: “She’s a lovely filly and she should learn plenty from today.”

“You’d have to be delighted with her. We might look at something like the Debutante (Group 2 at the Curragh on August 22) for her.”

The Dermot Weld-trained Eshera, beaten on her debut at Gowran Park, proved a runaway winner of the one-mile maiden, making all under Pat Smullen before stretching clear to slam the President’s debutante Aimhirgin Lass by seven and a half lengths.

Weld said of the Aga Khan-owned daughter of Oratorio: “She progressed well from her run in Gowran and won very impressively. We brought her back to a mile because she has an awful lot of pace and we’ll look for some black type now.”

Jim Bolger quipped: “I should probably have had him in the Derby tomorrow,” after Morning Mix ran out a seven and a half lengths winner of the concluding ten-furlong maiden, second leg of a double for the Coolcullen trainer and stable-jockey Kevin Manning, initiated when Algonquin overcame an eight-months absence in the Silken Thomas & Lock 13 Handicap.

“He’s a good type, wanted all over the world, ” said Bolger of Morning Mix. “He’s definitely a nice Group horse, a quality horse.”

Similarly, Michael Halford and Shane Foley shared a 76/1 double with Dark Alliance and Shadagann, the latter landing the featured Ragusa Handicap at the expense of Salthouse.

Halford stated: “H’s a very genuine horse and deserved a good pot like this. Shane said the loose horse (Waydownsouth) helped him and he galloped away. Paul (owner Paul Rooney) likes Galway, so we might give him a short break (he’s had three quickish runs) and go there for the Guinness Handicap on the Friday.”

A beaten favourite over course and distance three weeks ago, a change of tactics worked the oracle for Dark Alliance in the Today FM Handicap, first leg of the Halford/Foley double.

Shane Foley brought the Dark Angel gelding with a rattling late challenge to foil Ducky Mallon and Shipyard.

Danny Grant was taken to hospital following a fall from Waydownsouth in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund ‘Ragusa’ Handicap.

Grant’s mount crashed to the ground early in the mile-and-a-half event.The rider was reported to have been knocked out for two minutes, but was fully alert afterwards and taken for checks on suspected left wrist and lower back injuries.

A stewards’ inquiry concluded the eight-year-old had clipped heals after a furlong and a half, leading to his fall.

Turf Club chief medical officer Dr Adrian McGoldrick was full of praise for Grant’s helmet and back protector, as he got a kick from a following horse. He will be automatically stood down for six days as a result of his concussion.

McGoldrick said: “You can see the dent in his helmet, where he was kicked. There is no doubt the helmet and back protector saved him.He’s gone to Naas for checks, as he’s sore on his left wrist and back.”

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