French import Soul Searcher springs Connacht Oaks surprise for Johnny Murtagh

Having her first run for Johnny Murtagh since arriving from France, 14/1 shot Soul Searcher proved a shock winner of the Irish Stallion Farms Connacht Oaks, run in heavy ground, in Sligo last night.
French import Soul Searcher springs Connacht Oaks surprise for Johnny Murtagh

Ridden by Rory Cleary, the four-year-old stable second string stayed on strongly up the straight to keep top-weight Ringside Humour at bay by two lengths, with favourite Lagostoevags back in third.

“That’s a bit of a surprise – I was fancying Sister Blandina (finished fourth) on the way down,” admitted winning trainer Murtagh. “This is a tough, genuine, staying filly. Eddie (of Giggisntown fame, husband of winning owner Wendy O’Leary) bought her with a view to getting some black type and that’s the plan, although she has a bit to go to get there. He told me she handled soft ground in France and she seemed to relish it out there.”

Andy Slattery and Declan McDonogh, who shared two big-race successes in Galway last week, struck again, on the double, with Jose Echegaray, which coped best with the heavy ground to see off Ontheiflist in the opening Irish Stallion Farms 2-Y-0 Auction Maiden, and veteran An Saighdiur, which made virtually all to land the seven-furlong rated race.

“This was the plan for a while,” said Slattery. “He had a grand run in Tipperary and his owner wanted a runner in Galway. He needed that run and was slow away, and slow again tonight, he still needs to learn a bit about racing. But he’s a good, tough horse and will stay further, maybe a mile and a quarter next year. He’ll probably go for a nursery now.”

But Slattery took particular pleasure from the victory of nine-year-old An Saighiur, which overcame a high draw, was soon in front and, after McDonogh slowed the pace, found plenty in the straight to beat fellow veteran Bubbly Bellini by four and a half lengths.

“He got his ground at last,” stated Slattery. “He’s a fair horse when the ground is nearly unraceable. He was a very sick horse in mid-summer, but he’s coming right. I thought Bubblu Bellini was the danger and he beat him well.

“We’ll see what the handicapper does but the owners, who are in Dubai at the moment, like going to Ayr – he’s run well there in the past without getting his ground. And I’d say we’ll be heading back there.”

After a couple of disappointments, Pat Smullen provided Dermot Weld with a welcome change of luck when 7/4 favourite Sea Swift coasted to an impressive, eleven lengths win over My Brother in the Students Days September 28th Race.

Owned by Calumet Farm, she was following up a maiden success at Naas. Smullen commented: “She’s a filly I like going forward. I didn’t know if she’d handle ground that deep. But she travelled extremely well in it. I knew three furlongs out that I’d win. There’s more improvement to come and she should develop into a black type filly.

It was a night to remember for Tyrone man Jason Cairns (32), now based in Castlefinn, County Donegal, who saddled his first winner as Jeremys Joy and Robbie Downey forged clear in the straight to slam Miss Ballygally and disappointing favourite Alishan in the Glasshouse Hotel Handicap.

Cairns is the fourth trainer to have handled Jeremy’s Joy, which arrived in his yard just two weeks ago. He explained: “She ran in Galway four days ago and was badly hampered at the bottom of the hill. The ground is the key to her and everything was right for her here.

“She’s the only horse I have for the flat – I’m mainly involved with pointers.”

Chris Hayes declared, “She’s a home-bred and they’re a genuine breed, tough as nails,” after Duck Egg Blue, trained by Kevin Prendergast for his wife Lesley, stayed on bravely to wear down front-running longshot Gifted Lady in the Ladies Day At Sligo 4th August Nursery.

Leigh Roche, on Gifted Lady, appeared to have his five rivals in trouble turning for home.

But the persistence of Hayes and Duck Egg Blue was rewarded as the Haatef filly got up close home to triumph by a half-length.

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