The 12/1 shot, scoring for the first time beyond seven furlongs on turf, was the second leg of a 77/1 double for Hayes, just back from a first winter sojourn in Dubai, which yielded 20 winners, and provided Deegan with his second Lincoln success, having won with Big Robert in 2010.
Aussie Valentine, outpointed by Onenightidreamed last year, made the running but, when Hayes produced Sruthan to challenge approaching the furlong-pole, the outcome was never really in doubt as the six-year-old Arakan gelding stretched clear to triumph by four and a quarter lengths.
“Things didn’t go right for him last year and he dropped to a lovely mark,” explained delighted Deegan. “But he’s a proper Group 3 horse and we had to have a crack at this race. He’ll go back into stakes company now, probably in the Gladness.
“Chris probably thought he was on the wrong horse, but this fellow has been working so well that I insisted he’d ride him. Plenty of people spend their lives trying to win a race like this, so it means a lot to win it again.”
Hayes had earlier provided his boss, Kevin Prendergast, with a significant boost on the opening day of the campaign as top-weight Awtaad, winner of Leopardstown maiden last October, slammed his rivals in the Plusvital Madrid 3-Y-0 Handicap.
Ridden confidently, Awtaad came through strongly to master Theodorico and powered clear to triumph by five lengths, to the delight of his trainer, who explained: “He’s always been a nice colt, but he was backward last year and has done well over the winter. He’s very big and strong and, on better ground, he’ll be a much better horse.”
“He’s in the Guineas trial in three weeks but he won so well today that we might keep him for Irish Guineas next month – the way he won today, I don’t think he’ll need another run.
"And, depending on how the Guineas goes, we’ll make plans. He’s in both Derbys (Irish and English), so I’ll have to talk to the boss (Hamdan Al Maktoum).”
Prendergast’s nephew Patrick captured the first stakes race of the 2016 season when Queen Blossom, stayed on powerfully for Fran Berry (Ralph Beckett’;s new stable-jockey in England) to foil the flattering Devonshire by a length in the lodge Park Stud Park Express Stakes.
The winning trainer admitted: “We consider her an Oaks filly, so we thought the mile would be too short for her.
“But in that ground, we knew she’d stay and, to be honest, winning is a real bonus.
“She’s grown a lot and Fran said she’s still very green. But she’s very honest, stays well and should keep improving. She justified being in the Irish Oaks today, so we’ll keep paying the money to keep her in the race.”
Now a nine-year-old Bubbly Bellni, ridden for Ado McGuinness by Declan McDonogh, repeated last year’s win in the six-furlong St.Patrick’s Festival Handicap and will follow a similar programme to last year in premier handicaps.
In the maiden action the opening two-year-old event went to 25/1 shot Mister Trader, ridden by Leigh Roche for Darren Bunyan, who described the Hellvelyn colt as “a solid and very straight-forward colt that stays well, but has plenty of boot” and expected him to improve further on better ground and when he steps up to six or seven furlongs.”
Jim Bolger will target a Guineas trial with Stenographer which swooped late under Kevin Manning to foil British raider Paddy Power and Sufoof in the six-furlong maiden while Dermot Weld will target the listed Tetrarch Stakes, back at the Curragh on May 2, with Embiran which scored for Pat Smullen in the concluding mile maiden, which the winning trainer rated “a good renewal”.