Pat Smullen and Eshera strike gold in Platinum Stakes

Pat Smullen was at his imperious best as he landed last night’s feature races at Cork, the listed Platinum Stakes and Group 3 Give Thanks Stakes, aboard the Dermot Weld-trained duo, Eshera and Zannda, to complete a treble which he kicked off aboard the exciting Only Mine.

Pat Smullen and Eshera strike gold in Platinum Stakes

Eshera, in the colours of the Aga Khan, came out on top in a thrilling finish to the listed event. The well-backed favourite was ridden prominently from the outset, and always well positioned to challenge.

For much of the straight she looked likely to prevail but the field tightened up considerably and, in a pulsating finish, it was only in the very last stride that Smullen and Eshera edged ahead to deny Wychwood Warrior, Steip Amach and Akira in a four-way photo finish.

Said the winning rider: “The lack of experience, against those older horses, showed from a furlong and a half down but, to be fair to her, the penny dropped in the last hundred years.

“She’s a lovely filly, I think an awful lot of her, and I think she’ll improve again off that. The ground was probably a bit quick — a little more juice would probably help her. I think the lack of experience is what nearly got her beaten, but raw ability came out in the end.

“I’d like to think she’ll progress from this, so you’d be hoping she’ll go to Group 3 now, and take it from there. Another furlong mightn’t go astray, either.”

Added assistant trainer Kris Weld: “We were always reasonably confident. She’s a nice filly, a big girl, but still very raw. She’ll stay in training next year, so no rush with her, and when she grows into her frame she’ll be a very nice filly altogether.”

In a remarkably similar finish to the Give Thanks Stakes, Smullen was at his most persuasive as he got Zannda, also owned by the Aga Khan, to deny the game Altesse.

The latter was never far off the pace, and moved to the front in the straight. However, Zannda challenged soon after, and the two had a real ding-dong battle from the two-furlong marker.

There was little between the pair thereafter and but Smullen, at his strongest, got Zannda home by a head, with their fellow 11-4 co-favourite of three, Easter, back in third.

“We were hopeful coming here,” said Kris Weld, regarding the completion of the double. “She (Zannda) won nicely, but we were hoping for a bit more rain for her. Pat was very happy with her through the race, and she’s held on well. The trip was never a worry, and we might have a look at something like the Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp on Arc weekend.”

Smullen added: “I probably got their a little bit soon as she idled a little as she got to the front. She wouldn’t want the ground any quicker than it was today, but she got away with it, and the step up to a mile and a half really suited. These horses try hard, they put their head down, and that’s what you need.”

Following a really smart effort in defeat in a Group 3 on just her second outing, the Joe Murphy-trained Only Mine earned her stripes with a straight-forward and authoritative display in the opening maiden.

Carrying the colours of Epsom Oaks winner Qualify, the 4-9 favourite was sent to the front from the outset, and held the rails slot all the way. Smullen never had to get serious with his mount, as she comfortably withstood the late challenge of Diamond Fields.

“There was fierce word about the Stack filly (Diamond Fields) and I do believe it, but our filly is exceptional,” said Murphy.

“Pat said she won very easily, he doesn’t know where she gets the speed from, but she has it. And she’ll probably go to the Debutante, the Moyglare and she’s in the Cheveley Park. We have exciting times ahead.”

Five-year-old Barbeque made the breakthrough in the Follow Us On Twitter Handicap, over six furlongs. Longfield Lad used his stall one draw to make the pace, and he held his advantage all the way to the final furlongs. Enigma Code collared the long-time leader inside the last half furlong, but Barbeque, under a strong drive from Billy Lee, got up late to snatch the spoils.

In the seven-furlong fillies’ handicap Octavia was sent off favourite to complete victories on consecutive nights but, after a game effort, she was denied by 4-1 chance Empress Toorah, ridden by Leigh Roche for Sabrina Harty.

The Eddie Lynam-trained Eighteen Summers took the one-mile apprentice handicap in the hands of Robbie Downey. Angel Of Joy opened up a clear lead before turning for home, but that served to provide the winner with something to aim at. The 6-1 chance quickened to challenge halfway up the straight, before storming home, clear of Reckless Lad.

Trainer Garrett Power continued his great run when Annadiamond got up in the dying strides to take the concluding mile-and-a-half handicap, under another accomplished ride from Colin Keane.

* The meeting, run in aid of the Irish Injured Jockeys’ Fund and Mallow Hospital, raised over €6,000, which will be divided equally.

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