Willie McCreery resurgence continues apace

After a mid-season lull trainer Willie McCreery has returned to form with a vengeance, and he recorded a 29-1 double on the opening day of the Killarney’s August festival, including taking the listed Vincent O’Brien Ruby Stakes with the game Erysimum.

Willie McCreery resurgence continues apace

A winner at Sligo and over this course and distance in May, she finished fourth behind Only Mine when bidding to complete her treble later that month.

Off the track since, she returned in great heart for this listed event and, under a positive ride from Billy Lee, she popped out of her plumb draw in one, and gave generously to come out on top in a five-way photo finish.

Stable companion Colour Blue and favourite Assume both threatened to sweep past in the straight, but Erysimum (5-1) battled oh-so-bravely to fend them off before holding the late rush of Marshall Jennings by a short head, with Cailin Mor the same distance back in third, Colour Blue another short head back in fourth, and Assume a head away in fifth.

Said McCreery: “She had a bit of a break, and we just brought her back her to get her started.”

“Billy Lee didn’t want to run her – put that down,” he added, laughing.

“He thought the ground would be too quick for her, but I said they’d watered. She was fourth in a Group 3 on her last start, so I’ll have to look at another Group 3 now. My other runner, Colour Blue, ran a great race but was beaten three short heads, into fourth place, which is a bit frustrating.”

The first leg of the McCreery and Lee double came in the previous race, in which 4-1 chance Valentana, successful at Tipperary on her previous outing, picked up strongly in the final half-furlong to collar long-time leader Intrepid Prince for a comfortable success.

“I’m delighted for (owners) John and Janice Liggett, who have been very patient as they left me alone with her when others would have been telling me to run her. I knew she wasn’t as bad as she had been running, but we’ve found the key to her now – getting her settled, giving her a chance to finish out her races,” said McCreery.

The market spoke volumes prior to the start of the opening maiden, in which Tang Dynasty drifted from 4-9 on the show to greater than even money on the exchanges.

Off a slow break he was never able to get heavily involved as the Ger Lyons-trained Percy, ridden by Colin Keane, raced prominently from the outset and then produced a terrific late surge to snatch victory from long-time leader Drake Passage.

The runner-up traded at 1-14 on the exchanges before being picked up the winner, who returned 9-2 but traded as high as 15-1 in-running. Of the colt who had been fourth behind Capri on his only previous start, Lyons said: “He probably should have been second at Galway, but Colin taught him his job well and that was the winning of today’s race.

“He’s a good, genuine horse, but the ground was as fast as he wants it.”

There was a similar, if slightly less-dramatic finish to the second race, in which Look Closer, ridden by Leigh Roche for Dermot Weld, got on top late to deny odds-on favourite Schubert.

Of the winner, who had shown promise in his sole start last season but was having his first run since well beaten on his return, in April, Roche reported: “He had a bit of a setback earlier in the year, but the boss (Weld) said he had him as forward as he could get him at home. He was very confident of a big run.

“The blinkers helped as he’s a bit lazy, but he’s a horse that tries hard.”

There was an upset in the apprentice handicap, in which the Tom Madden-ridden Avalanche proved too good for favourite Trade Marked.

The Thomond O’Mara-trained winner was returning from nine months off, but there were no signs of rustiness as the grey stayed on stoutly to deny the market leader.

It was a similar story in the Easy Clean Limited Handicap when Joe Murphy’s Daredevil Day (14-1) was brought with a powerful run down the outside to collar favourite and long-time leader Xebec inside the final furlong, before stretching two and a half lengths clear.

It was a welcome return to winning ways for the five-year-old, last successful at the May meeting here in 2014.

In the absence of Savannah Storm, the betting indicated the finish to the Ladbrokes Race, which closed the card, would be fought out between Ballydoyle stable companions Triplicate and Bravery, with the market heavily favouring the former.

And that is precisely how it worked out, with Triplicate, ridden by Donnacha O’Brien, making all and finding for pressure to see off Bravery, ridden by Ana O’Brien.

Said the winning rider: “I thought my first two (beaten favourites Tang Dynasty and Schubert) were my best chances - I thought I could have a few today, but to come away with one is good.”

Of the 2-5 winner he added: “He’s still green out in front and it ended up turning into a sprint, but I definitely think he has an engine.”

Asked if he felt the runner-up might have been getting the better of the battle, he replied: “Ana’s horse has a lot of ability but doesn’t seem to be finishing his races, so when my lad was coming back I knew I would get there. I’m not sure how good he is, but I think he could be a group horse.”

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