Battle Of Marengo laid down an early marker for the Investec Derby with a determined triumph in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.
A winner of three of his four starts as a juvenile, rounding off his campaign with victory in the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh, Battle Of Marengo was sent off an 8-13 favourite to give trainer Aidan O’Brien a seventh victory in the first recognised Derby trial of the Flat season.
Ridden by the trainer’s son Joseph, the three-year-old moved well for the first half of the 10-furlong journey but was being pushed along from the home turn.
For a moment it appeared Sugar Boy would make a real race of it, but once O’Brien picked up his whip, Battle Of Marengo went about his business in fine style, soon asserting to score decisively by a length and three-quarters.
Battle Of Marengo is 10-1 (from 12-1) with Stan James to emulate former Ballydoyle greats Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002), who both won the Ballysax en-route to glory in the premier Classic at Epsom.
O’Brien senior said: “Battle of Marengo is a lovely horse and as a start off, you couldn’t be happier with that.
“That was his first time beyond a mile and he wasn’t stopping.
“The ground is real heavy but he’s a beautiful mover and he’d prefer real good ground.
“He’ll come back here again for the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (May 12) before hopefully going to Epsom.”
Battle Of Marengo’s victory was the second leg of a treble on the day for team O’Brien, with Declaration Of War (6-4) turning in a stylish display to beat Bold Thady Quill in the Listed Heritage Stakes and Justification (5-2 favourite) winning the Leopardstown Club Members Handicap.
O’Brien said of the impressive Declaration Of War: “We’re going to go for the Lockinge at Newbury (May 18) and that was the plan coming here.
“He wants fast ground and it’s a bit surprise that he went on that. He is so strong though – a big powerful horse and I’d imagine he’ll come on from that run.”
A patient ride from Johnny Murtagh paid dividends as Fort Knox finished with a flourish to make a winning debut for the Tommy Carmody yard in the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial.
A winner of a backend Newbury maiden when trained by Richard Hannon as a juvenile, the 7-1 shot showed smart acceleration in the testing conditions to beat Dont Bother Me by a length and three-quarters.
Murtagh’s wife, Orla, said: “We are really happy and he’s in all the Guineas.
“We’ll have to speak to Andrew (Tinkler, owner) and we’ll see how he comes out of the race but on that ground he did it well – it is quite testing.”
Stan James spokesman Joe Burke said: “Fort Knox was most impressive in taking the 2000 Guineas Trial and we have cut him to 25-1 (from 40-1) for the Newmarket 2000 Guineas (May 4) where he bids to go one place closer than his full brother, Dubawi Gold, who finished second in the 2011 renewal.”
Rawaaq claimed a comfortable victory in the Leopardstown 1,000 Guineas Trial for Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen.
The 6-1 shot travelled smartly and finished off well to beat What Style by a length and a quarter.
Weld said: “Rawaaq did that well, she’s very consistent.
“What she lacks in size she makes up for in courage.
“We’ll probably bring her back here (for the Derrinstown Stud 1000 Guineas Trial, May 12) before heading for the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh.
“She’s light so she should act on better ground as well. She’s a very sound, tough and consistent filly.”
Jim Bolger’s good start to the season continued as Focus On Venice (2-1) held on to deny the O’Brien-trained favourite Michaelmas in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.
Bolger said: “Kevin (Manning, jockey) said it was very hard to keep straight with the wind – they are difficult conditions today but he does seem to handle soft ground.
“We’ll be stepping him up to seven furlongs and he’s a horse I can see going on to better things.”
Fastidious (8-1) took the FM104 Strawberry Alarm Clock Family Days Handicap under Fergal Lynch.