Trained by Aidan O’Brien, and positively ridden by Seamie Heffernan, as he had been when winning at Dundalk on his previous start, he momentarily looked in danger as Elusive Heights ranged upside in the straight.
However, as previously, he found plenty, and asserted late to win with a little to spare.
Heffernan said: “I think the track rode a little tight for him. It wasn’t ideal to have to make all the running, but I was happy in the last half-furlong. He’s a group horse.”
On the undercard, jockey Niall McCullagh took the plaudits, recording a 509-1 double, which began aboard the once-raced St Gallen in the opening maiden, for three-year-olds. Trained in Upton, Co Cork, by John Murphy, the 14-1 chance was settled off the pace early, before being brought with a late challenge to lead inside the final furlong. After seeing off the well-backed Atlas, he had enough in hand to withstand the late rush of easy-to-back favourite Monarch by a short head.
“I think he’s a proper horse,” said Murphy. “He’s a huge horse – 16.2hh – so hopefully he has a future.
“Well give him plenty of time, but he could go for a winners’ or listed race next.”
In contrasting fashion, McCullagh made all the running aboard the Liam Roche-trained Lightening Stricks (33-1) in the first division of the Ross Golf Course Membership Handicap. Clear approaching the final furlong, he held the strong finish of Snap Click by a neck.
After a runaway success in a maiden at Sligo little more than a fortnight ago, Erysimum (9-4) carried her penalty with distinction when leading all the way in the median auction fillies’ race.
Trained by Willie McCreery and ridden by Billy Lee, she was last to come off the bridle and, after stretching clear approaching the final, had a length-and-three-parts to spare over gambled-on favourite Gilded Reflection.
“Billy gave her a good enterprising ride, making use of her experience,” said McCreery.
“He kicked off the home bend, and she did it well. Billy thought a mile was plenty far enough for her here, but she’s an improving filly, with a bit of size about her, and I hope she can step into group company before the end of the year.”
Trainer Brendan Duke has royal ambitions for The Mouse Doctor, after he held on to land the Join Tote Rewards Handicap over a mile. The 8-1 chance was driven to the front 150 yards out by Kevin Manning, but was all out to hold the whirlwind finish of well-backed favourite Aspen Mountain (7-4) by a short head.
“I’d love to think he’s a Britannia [Royal Ascot] horse. He is a good horse, but he only does the minimum,” said Duke. “He’ll probably go for the 10 -furlong race at the Curragh on Sunday, because I think you need to stay at least nine furlongs to win the Britannia.”
Trainer Johnny Feane’s runners continue to run well, and he was among the winners once more when Elusive In Paris made a successful return to the turf in the second division of the Ross Golf Course Membership Handicap.
Claimed after finishing runner-up at Dundalk three runs previously, he made a winning start for his new stable at the same track a week later, and finished runner-up on his next start.
Back on the grass for the first time since October, Gary Halpin’s mount was keen early, but was still going well at the top of the straight and produced a big run down the outside to lead inside the two- furlong marker before holding Busy Bush’s game effort by three parts of a length.
Trainer Edward O’Grady claimed his second success of the meeting when Le Vagabond defied top weight with an authoritative victory in the Follow Us On Facebook Handicap. Having his first run on the flat since coming from France, the promising hurdler was keen early on, but found plenty for Kieren Fallon’s pressure, and was well on top at the line, beating Alamgiyr by a couple of lengths.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I thought he was in super form and, if everything went to plan, he would, obviously, have a very good chance,” said O’Grady. As he has been running over hurdles, he has learned to settle too well for flat racing, and it was a bit of a shock to the system.”
There was a minor upset in the finale, as Abraham (5-2) landed the four-runner Killarneyraces.ie race, with 2-5 favourite Ebayya only third. Second for much of the trip, he had a ding-dong battle with long- time leader Jocular before forging clear late under Declan McDonogh.
Winning trainer Shay Barry said: “He was a bit unlucky the last day, so we’re delighted with that. He’s a big, raw baby. We bought him to go hurdling. He has been schooled and he jumps well and will probably go jumping now.”