Having completed a double at track’s opening meeting of 2022, two weeks ago, Andy Oliver struck again in Sligo when Gradulations justified 11-10 favouritism, in style, in the Irish Stallion Farms Median Auction Maiden.
Confidently handled by Ronan Whelan, the consistent Muhkadram filly seized the initiative turning for home, quickly stretched clear and stayed on powerfully to beat A Shin Undine by almost four lengths.
Oliver said, “She has run well twice recently and we tried her in a Group race last year, so we’ve always thought a bit of her. She’s ground-versatile and the longer trip suited her. She’s a big, strong filly, is tough and stays well. So we have plenty of options for her.” Joseph O’Brien, who saddled four winners on Sunday, completed an across the card double, with odds-on favourite Entropy bolting-up in Sligo’s Hazel Wood Maiden, twenty minutes before Monty’s Way scored down in Killarney.
Dylan Browne McMonagle oozed confidence on the 2/5 favourite, runner-up in two recent Leopardstown handicaps, rounded the leaders on the home-turn and quickly asserted, ultimately having eight and a half lengths to spare over Granville Street.
“He’s a progressive horse and could be one for a premier handicap,” said the winning rider, “He’s very straight-forward and was unlucky twice in Leopardstown. This should do his confidence good.” In the absence of O’Brien’s Zaynudin, proven National Hunt performer The Shunter, trained for J P McManus by Emmet Mullins, made a winning start on the flat when, ridden by Simon Torrens, he justified 5/6 favouritism in the concluding countysligoraces.com Maiden, a win which opens up more options for the nine-year-old.
And Kevin Coleman stated, “He needs the trip and soft ground is the key to him,” after Nathan Crosse brought Derry Lad with a late surge to take the Kilcawley Construction Handicap at the expense of Talbot.
Tom Madden, who missed nine months of action (from August last year until May) due to injury, savoured his first success since returning, on board the Jessica Harrington-trained Princess Rajj in the Lough Gill Handicap.
“It’s great to be back in the winner’s enclosure and I hope this gets me going again,” stated Madden, “She’s a straight-forward, hardy and genuine filly. She showed a nice bit of pace and might stay a mile.” And the Gearoid Brouder-ridden Mass Gathering (25/1) was a shock winner of the six-furlong claimer, giving Gerry Murray, based in Belmont, County Offaly, his first success as a trainer.