Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen got the Irish Flat turf season off to the perfect start by taking out the two feature events on the opening afternoon of the campaign at the Curragh.
First to strike for the master of Rosewell House was Vote Often, who could be bound for the Irish 1,000 Guineas after outpointing British raider Odeliz in a thrilling climax to the Lodge Park Stud European Breeders Fund Park Express Stakes.
Karl Burke’s Odeliz looked set to take the Group Three prize back to Middleham after cruising to the lead, but 10-1 shot Vote Often, last seen running away with a juvenile Naas maiden in October, knuckled down well to win the argument by a head.
Odeliz ran an excellent race in defeat in second, conceding over a stone to the winner due to the weight-for-age allowance.
Weld said: “She’s a lovely tough filly and she won well at Naas last year.
“The key is she loves that ground. That’s why we have her out early.
“She’s beautifully bred and it’s good to get her a Group Three win.
“She’ll be considered for the Irish 1,000 Guineas.”
The formidable combination then struck in the fiercely-competitive www.thetote.com Irish Lincolnshire with Stuccodor.
Sent off the 11-2 favourite following a couple of decent efforts over hurdles, the 11-2 chance dug deep in the final throws to take the valuable prize by three-quarters of a length from the strong-travelling That’s Plenty.
“He’s been a very consistent horse for us and it was a very good ride from Pat,” said Weld.
“He was touched off by a stable companion (Northern Rocked) at Galway last year, so he deserved to win a big pot and he’s effective on that ground.
“He’ll go back over hurdles later in the year.”
Wayne Lordan also struck twice on the day, initiating his brace aboard the Tommy Stack-trained Great Minds in the Trinity Racing Society Handicap.
The four-year-old got the better of last year’s winner and fellow 9-2 joint-favourite by two and a half lengths after showing a potent finishing kick.
Stack’s son and assistant, Fozzy, said: “He was a bit unlucky at Navan last year where he got mugged on the line and then we probably ran him back too quick at Redcar.
“He wants a dig in the ground and if we get a wet summer he’ll be all right.”
Lordan bagged his second winner of the afternoon as he punched out 7-1 shot Fly To The Moon to victory in the Johnny Murtagh Lifetime Achievement In Racing Madrid Handicap, beating Weld’s Go For Goal by a length.
Winning trainer David Wachman said: “Wayne gave her a great ride.
“She was stakes-placed, so she probably deserved to win that.”
Kevin Prendergast and Chris Hayes combined to clinch the first two-year-old race of the season, with 7-2 chance Beach Belle landing the opening Tally Ho Stud European Breeders Fund Maiden.
The juvenile is a daughter of Beach Bunny, who won three races for Prendergast and owner Lady O’Reilly and was also beaten a short head by Dar Re Mi in the Group One Pretty Polly Stakes five years ago.
Prendergast said: “She’s quite smart, although I don’t know how she’ll do when the ground dries out a bit.
“She’s been quite good from the first bit of work she’s done and she may run in the Marble Hill Stakes back here, although I’d have to discuss it with the owner.”
The Charles O’Brien-trained Iveagh Gardens (6-1) proved far too good for her rivals in the Elusive Pimpernel Maiden, coming home four and a half lengths clear of Tango Time.
O’Brien said: “I thought she’d done well over the winter, so I was hopeful.
“With a filly you are looking for black type and it’s a possibility she’ll come back to Leopardstown next week for the 1,000 Guineas Trial over seven (furlongs).
“She’s not really one I’d like to run back that quick, so I’ll have a look at the programme and see what the options are.
“I think she’s got a bright future.”
The concluding Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Maiden went to Jim Bolger’s newcomer Answered (2-1), ridden by Kevin Manning.
Bolger said: “He had a setback last September and we just missed getting him out last backend.
“I’m hoping he’ll be back here in May (for the 2,000 Guineas) and we’ll look at a Guineas trial next.”