Battle Of Marengo made it five wins in a row but was only workmanlike in claiming victory in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown.
Giving Aidan O’Brien his fourth Derby trial winner of the week, the Galileo colt – sent off at prohibitive odds of 2-13 – took over from Dont Bother Me around five furlongs out and it looked like he would win with real ease when going clear with quarter of a mile to run.
He had to get a reminder from a relatively animated Joseph O’Brien, however, and in the end was pushed out to beat Loch Garman by a length and three-quarters, with Little White Cloud running an eyecatching race in third.
Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill kept Battle Of Marengo at his respective pre-trial price for the Investec Derby on June 1, but Stan James were more impressed and cut the winner to 4-1 second-favourite behind the runner-up’s stablemate Dawn Approach.
O’Brien, who won the Derrinstown with subsequent Epsom heroes Galileo (2001) and High Chaparral (2002), said: “That all went to plan. We had to go on with him or it would have been a very steady pace.
“He has just ticked over since the last day. You would have to be happy with him. He is lazy in front but he gave a good blow afterwards.
“He loves fast ground as he is a great mover.
“The three owners will decide where he goes next. It’s going to be an interesting Dante now (at York on Thursday).”
O’Brien is expected to run Leopardstown maiden winner Indian Chief in the Knavesmire feature.
Duntle made a perfectly satisfactory reappearance with victory in the Amethyst Stakes.
The David Wachman-trained filly was having her first start since being demoted from first place in the Matron Stakes at this track in September, having been ruled to have interfered with Sir Henry Cecil’s Chachamaidee.
Settled in third by Wayne Lordan as Sweet Lightning took the five runners along in single file, the 8-13 favourite quickened smartly a furlong and a half out to sweep to the front.
She looked to idle from there and although the winning margin over Custom Cut was a narrow one, Wachman’s charge was always doing enough.
Duntle holds an entry in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (formerly the Windsor Forest) at Royal Ascot, and looks set for a trip to the big meeting.
Wachman said: “She wants fast ground and a fast pace. She will head to Ascot now and that was a satisfactory start for her.”
Just Pretending made a quick return to action pay dividends as she took top honours in the Derrinstown Stud 1,000 Guineas Trial.
The O’Brien-trained filly only broke her maiden at Navan on Tuesday and clearly has an appetite for racing.
The 6-1 chance made noticeable progress at the three-furlong marker and made a positive move once straightened for home.
Wachman’s Hint Of A Tint, who had been disappointing when favourite on her seasonal bow, put down a strong challenge but Just Pretending pulled out enough to prevail by a neck.
O’Brien senior said: “She is a funny lady. She gives trouble at the stalls and needs to be loaded early.
“She has loads of ability and she showed that at Navan. She could go for the Guineas (at the Curragh on May 26) now and she might step up to a mile and a quarter. She is a fine big filly.”
Sacred Aspect ran out a determined winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction and is set for better things.
The Ken Condon-trained two-year-old raced prominently with Dermot Weld’s pacesetter Ealain Aibrean throughout, taking over the lead around a furlong from home.
Weld’s runner battled back but was a neck down on the 16-1 winner at the line, with those two the only ones to get into it.
Sacred Aspect, a daughter of Haatef, had been sixth on her debut in a good race won by Focus On Venice at this track last month, and Condon said: “The first day she ran I asked the other trainers about their horses and they all liked theirs.
“Shane (Foley) said to me that she would prefer an even stronger pace. She is going the right way and I’ll let her take her chance in a Listed race at Naas on June 3.”