Ireland team repeat Shergar success

A consistent performance from the Ireland team saw them retain the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup over Europe in a battle only decided by the final of the six races.

A consistent performance from the Ireland team saw them retain the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup over Europe in a battle only decided by the final of the six races.

Ireland won one of the events of Ascot’s jockeys team competition when Fran Berry steered Andrew Balding’s 3-1 favourite Bernie The Bolt to a convincing success in the St Hallett Shergar Cup Stayers and he collected the Silver Saddle for the leading individual rider.

While the Europe and Great Britain teams won two races each, Ireland picked up more points from their placed efforts and amassed a total of 80, with Europe on 72, the Rest Of The World 45 and Great Britain on 43.

“It’s a personal highlight to be here – a dream come true,” said Berry, who was making his Shergar Cup debut.

“I was lucky to get a very good ride from Andrew Balding and several of my other rides had very good chances.”

Berry nearly took the concluding Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Sprint on 9-4 favourite Gene Autry but while he could not catch the European captain Olivier Peslier and Gramercy (4-1), the second place points were enough for Ireland to follow up from 2009.

The meeting has tended to be treated with at least indifference if not derision by the traditionalists, but from a commercial point of view it must be regarded as a success.

Organisers believe the fact it is all over in an afternoon makes it a format easier to understand for novice racegoers and a sold-out premier enclosure, with many younger faces turning up, shows it has certainly been promoted in the right avenues.

Two trainers, Mark Johnston and Balding, dominated the competition with two winners each, but held rather differing views on it.

Johnston ran 14 horses overall and managed a one-two-three in the Michael Page International Shergar Cup Challenge.

Great Britain captain Hayley Turner took top honours on Yorgunnabelucky (9-1), who dictated proceedings just as he did at Pontefract on Wednesday and finished well up on 2-1 favourite Emerging Artist and Submariner.

Johnston also helped Great Britain take the Titanic Quarter Shergar Cup Classic when Alan Munro dragged Mister Angry (16-1) across the line a short-head to the good.

“The owners don’t run for a free lunch and there is a lot of prize money on offer for a limited field, so that’s why we’re here,” said Johnston.

“The team competition doesn’t appeal to me – I am struggling to tell the colours apart – and while the turnout is wonderful, I’m wondering why they are here, whether it is for the post-racing concert or what.”

More encouraging is Balding and his pair could now help the Kingsclere trainer bid for both legs of the Newmarket Autumn Double.

Along with Bernie The Bolt, his stablemate Set The Trend (9-2) took the Les Ambassadeurs Club Shergar Cup Mile thanks to a cool ride from the Australian Luke Nolen.

“It has been a lucky meeting for us so we keep a couple back for it,” explained Balding.

“It particularly suited Bernie The Bolt, as it is tough to find races for horses rated in the mid-90s.

“He has not had much luck in his two runs this year, firstly in the Chester Cup and then in the Northumberland Plate, where he got into awful trouble.

“The Cesarewitch is very much the target. He will probably go up in the weights for this so we may have to claim off him.”

Of Set The Trend, he added: “He’s a straightforward horse who deserved to win at Epsom and things just didn’t work out for him last time. He could be a Cambridgeshire horse.”

Christophe Soumillon had started the meeting well for Europe by winning the Barclays Shergar Cup Dash on Robert Cowell’s Prohibit (5-2 favourite).

“He was one of my good rides today and I had seen him a few times in Dubai – I told my agent I wanted to ride him when I was out there,” said Soumillon.

Cowell added: “He’s a proper horse – I’m sure he’s capable of running in Listed races now.”

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