Trainer Dermot Weld dominated the early Irish Classic trials on Sunday as he took all three feature events on an afternoon his rival Aidan O’Brien will choose to forget.
Weld clearly savoured the easy victory of Famous Name in the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes before Unwritten Rule dented the Derby aspirations of O’Brien’s Washington Irving in the Foxrock Race.
Famous Name, like the others ridden by Pat Smullen, was sent off at 4-6 in a small field having been narrowly beaten by O’Brien’s well-regarded Jupiter Pluvius last season.
Following in some famous hoofprints for Weld, he treated his rivals disdainfully to oblige by four lengths.
Weld said: “The last two winners I’ve had in this were Refuse To Bend and Grey Swallow and I rate this horse very highly.
“He was carrying maybe 15lb more than his optimum weight so he will come on a fair bit for that.
“I’ll have to talk to (owner) Prince Khalid but the Irish 2,000 Guineas would probably be the race for him, although there’s also the French Guineas and the Italian Derby.”
Washington Irving (8-13 favourite) was all the rage for his race and made eyecatching progress up the inside rail for Johnny Murtagh but was held by Unwritten Rule (9-2) in a photo-finish.
The runner-up remains 16-1 for Epsom with William Hill but was eased to 25s by Cashmans.
“We’re happy – he’s run a very good race,” reflected O’Brien.
The winner has a future too, and Weld said: “He’s a tough colt, a staying horse and the Derrinstown Derby Trial would be the logical step.”
There was an unsatisfactory feel to the 1,000 Guineas Trial, where Carribean Sunset (12-1) finally shed her maiden tag.
A fine third in the Goffs Fillies Million, she was atoning for a poor run on her seasonal reappearance at Cork to prevail by a head in a battle with Halfway To Heaven.
O’Brien, again trainer of the runner-up, endured further disappointment with his stable first-choice Psalm, who was backed into 5-4 favourite but her saddle slipped two furlongs out to leave Murtagh hanging on for dear life.
Held in third was Jim Bolger’s dual Group One winner Saoirse Abu, who was weak in the market and expected to benefit from the run.
Weld said: “I thought Pat gave her an excellent ride.
“The plan had been to make all but he thought they might have been going a shade too quick so he took her back.
“Her run at Cork (last time) was in very deep ground and that’s obviously brought her on.
“She may not be a superstar, but we’ll now be looking at the Irish 1000 Guineas for her next run.”
O’Brien’s well-backed 6-4 favourite Sail was also beaten in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.
Beach Bunny, a well-related daughter of High Chaparral, continued Kevin Prendergast’s terrific start to the season by causing a 25-1 turn-up.
Chris Hayes got first run on Sail, who eventually closed to within a length despite an alarmingly high head carriage.
“Her form was so poor as a two-year-old, but as you would expect from her sire she has improved a fair bit,” explained Prendergast.
“She has been working very well and we gave her a good chance. I suppose we would look for a winners-of-one next.”
Lesser-known Curragh trainer John Hayden enjoyed a one-two in the Leopardstown Aertel Page 277 Handicap, as the enduring eight-year-old Alone He Stands (100-30) just beat Emily Blake while the Paddocks Handicap went to Dolphin Bay (7-1).