Ten years after making her Group 1 breakthrough, on the flat, with Pathfork in the National Stakes, Jessica Harrington savoured Keeneland Phoenix Stakes success for the first time when Lucky Vega, confidently ridden by stable-jockey Shane Foley, ran out a convincing winner of yesterday’s Curragh showpiece.
Narrowly denied in the Railway Stakes last time, the Lope De Vega colt travelled sweetly on the heels of the leaders and, switched to challenge,
quickened in great style to grasp the initiative inside the final furlong before forging clear to score by three and a half lengths from Aloha Star, with The Lir Jet best of the British challengers in third. The placings of second and third were later reversed in a Stewards Enquiry, in which Chris Hayes was handed a one-day careless riding ban.
Laws Of Indices, which beat Lucky Vega in the recent Railway Stakes, lost valuable ground at the start and, in the circumstances, did well to finish fourth, staying on best in the closing stages.
A delighted Jessica Harrington declared: “It’s great for everyone I’m delighted for the horse, everyone at home and, particularly, for Mr Zheng and Yulong Investments – this is their first Group 1, anywhere in the world.”
She admitted: “He probably needed it the last day (in the Railway). He had only won his maiden and was never in a battle before. But he learned plenty and has really come to himself in his work since them. He was a lot more streetwise out there today.
“Shane says he’s getting quicker and that we should go for the Middle Park next. I think he should get seven, but we’ll stick to six furlongs for now.
“Last year was all about the fillies and it’s great to win a Group 1 with a colt this time.”
Harrington saddled even-money favourite Millisle for the chief supporting race, the Rathasker Stud Phoenix Sprint Stakes.
But, struggling at half-way, she could finish only sixth behind British challenger Glen Shiel, ridden by Oisin Orr for Archie Watson.
The 12/1 shot got up late to snatch the spoils in a four-way photo-finish, beating Sonaiyla, Forever In Dreams and Speak In Colours.
Winning rider Orr commented: “It wasn’t the plan to be behind horses but, when I got him out and rolling, he hit the hill well and won well at the line. Thanks to connections for letting me on him.”
Placed in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, 102-rated, 14-race maiden So Wonderful belatedly opened her account for Aidan O’Brien when getting the better of Lady Anner by a neck in the one-mile fillies maiden.
Winning rider Wayne Lordan said: “On her form you can see that she has plenty of talent and it’s nice to get her in front today, to break her maiden.”
Brendan Powell, assistant to trainer Joseph O’Brien, suggested: “I think he’s a pretty smart horse, a typical Zoffany, very relaxed and with a lovely nature,” after debutant Thunder Moon quickened impressively through a gap and stretched clear to land the two-year-old maiden by three and three-quarter lengths from Colour Sergeant.
“He went for a Barrier Trial in Dundalk and did it well. Declan said he found a good turn of foot when he gave him a squeeze – and that’s always a good sign.”
Unplaced in the first nursery of the season in Sligo on Friday (“she didn’t handle the track”, according to her trainer Johnny Murtagh), 16/1 shot Revolutme (Danny Sheehy) made all to land a 16/1 shock in the six-furlong nursery.
The Crosse brothers dominated the finish of the five-furlong maiden, with Nathan producing the consistent, 73-rated Call Of The Jungle to foil Shane on King Of Stars by three-quarters of a length.
The Willie McCreery-trained winner was earning her reward for consistency.
For the second time this season, Paddy Harnett successfully deputised for the absent Joey Sheridan on a Denis Hogan-trained sprinter, winning the five-furlong handicap on 15/2 shot Bahlwan.
Iin the finale, the Robbie Colgan-ridden Flaming Moon completed a memorable across-the-card double for the Smith family.
Flaming Moon is trained by Matt Smith for his father Kevin, whose other son, and namesake, had earlier saddled his first winner as a trainer when It Takes Time proved a shock winner in Downpatrick.