Having finished last behind stable-companion Snowfall in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom last time, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Willow made her stakes-race breakthrough in Wednesday night’s listed Naas Oaks Trial, outpointing La Petite Coco by a half-length before surviving a Stewards Enquiry.
The American Pharoah filly was ridden to victory by Seamus Heffernan, whose intended mount High Heels was withdrawn. and the winning rider commented: “At the start of the year, I thought she was a really good filly, but it has taken time to get her act together.
“She won nicely and it’s great to win a nice race with her. Hopefully, she’ll progress from here through the rest of the season.”
The start of this race, and subsequent races, was significantly delayed following an incident close to the start in which Gary Carroll took a nasty fall from Holly Golightly.
Carroll was reportedly knocked out for a short time before regaining consciousness and chatting to those attending him. He was removed to nearby Naas Hospital for observation.
Sacred Bridge, a Bated Breath filly, trained for Juddmonte by Ger Lyons, justified hefty support in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies 2-Y-0 Maiden.
Backed into 11/10 favourite and given a typically sympathetic ride by champion-jockey Colin Keane, Sacred Bridge tracked the pace, came through smoothly to lead at the furlong-pole and eased clear close home to beat her experienced market rival Agartha by a length and a half.
“That was a lovely performance – Colin was very kind on her,” stated Shane Lyons, “She’s a typical one of ours, very green first time, and got a bit tired. But she should come on a ton from this.”
A course and distance winner last October, Willie McCreery’s Wood Ranger made all under Billy Lee to take the six-furlong J.F.Dunne Insurances Business Club Handicap, holding No More Porter by a neck.
“He loves this place,” said McCreery. “We felt he was a bit lazy the last twice, so we put the visor on him today. Billy gave him a lovely ride from the front.
“It’s great for his owner-breeders (Jim and Noelle Walsh) – it’s the first time they’ve seen him run.”
McCreery and Lee doubled-up when well-backed, Godolphin-owned Mother Country got the better of I Siyou Baby by a head in the one-mile fillies maiden, the pair stretching four lengths clear of the third, Beagnach Sasta.
“I’m delighted to get a winner for Goldolphin, particularly with a home-bred filly,” said McCreery, “She’s a grand, big filly and is only coming to herself. She wouldn’t mind more of an ease and coming back to a mile suited her. I might even try her over seven.”
Apprentices Wesley Joyce and Nikita Kane delivered a double for their boss Johnny Murtagh. Joyce lost his 10lb. claim on board Misterio in a division of the Naas Racecourse Handicap while Kane gave Kosman an enterprising, front-running ride to take the one-mile apprentice handicap in good style.
Shane Foley also adopted successful, front-running tactics on Jessica Harrington’s consistent filly Hamwood Flier in the concluding seven-furlong maiden and explained: “She had a nice run in Listowel, which was needed after a break.
“We were keen to drop back to seven furlongs with her and we had the (low) draw.”