Mick Channon, who went all the way to the top as a soccer player with Southampton and England, cemented his place as a first-class trainer when saddling Samitar to land the Etihad Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh yesterday.
Channon’s only previous classic success was in the German 2000 Guineas (Royal Power, 2006), not in this league, and his total belief in the abilities of the daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar was totally justified.
Channon was adamant she had been ridden all wrong in her first two races this season, by Jamie Spencer and then Olivier Peslier.
So, on this occasion, he turned to the largely unheralded Martin Harley and the 22-year-old from Letterkenny, Co Donegal grabbed the chance with both hands, giving Samitar a perfect drive.
“I wanted to do it my way this time and Martin was spot-on”, said Channon. “He rode her with a bit of confidence, not like the first two times this season when it was a case of ‘whizz’.”
Homecoming Queen, a shock nine lengths winner of the English equivalent on soft ground at Newmarket, tried to repeat the front-running tactics which worked so well then.
But this much faster surface found her out and she was in big trouble approaching the furlong pole.
Samitar was simply cantering and when Harley set her alight the response was immediate and decisive.
She lengthened away and was a cosy length and a half to the good over Ishvana at the post, with Princess Sinead third and Homecoming Queen, very uneasy in the market, fading into fourth.
Said Channon: “We got our ground today, we’ve been running in a bog all spring and that’s why you get Homecoming Queen winning by nine lengths! In high summer results are far more predictable.
“We’ve hit the bar a few times here before, I thought this was never going to come. I’m delighted for Martin, he works hard and is a good lad.
“I’d love to run her in the Coronation at Royal Ascot. The owner (Martin Schwartz) bought her to go to the States, but I’d say I will have her until September and then she will head to America.”
Harley is yet another product of the Jim Bolger academy, having spent four years with him.
Said Harley: “I think I rode in a classic for Mr Bolger (he didn’t), but this was a big opportunity to get.
“I have been a year and a half with the boss (Channon) and he’s been very good to me.
“I tracked the two horses I wanted to track and from two furlongs down knew there was nothing to beat her. She has obviously come on for her races this season.”
Aidan O’Brien’s Australian import, So You Think, was almost certainly seen for the last time in this country when justifying long odds-on favouritism by six lengths in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup.
Ridden by Joseph O’Brien, he coasted through the contest and it was always only a matter of when the 19-year-old said go.
He let out an inch of rein early in the straight and So You Think quickly bounded clear of Famous Name.
“I’m delighted and am probably only getting to know the horse now”, commented O’Brien senior. “He’s unusual in that his mane and tail grow twice as fast as any other horse, he has that wild look about him.
“I’d imagine he will now go to Royal Ascot and then it will be the Eclipse (Sandown). He would then have to go into quarantine, if he’s to head to Australia for stud duties. He has been amazing to train, it has been an unbelievable experience.”
O’Brien’s newcomer, Lines Of Battle, won the opening Big Bad Bob EBF Maiden by a snug head and looks to have a bright future.
The previously once-raced Jim Bolger trained Leitir Mor was always near the front, but Joseph O’Brien, on Lines Of Battle, had him covered through the final furlong and only pushed out the son of War Front though the last hundred yards
Said O’Brien senior: “He was working nicely and just ready to come racing. You would expect him to come forward and is an Ascot possible.”
Dermot Weld’s Speaking Of Which, winner of a modest maiden at Cork, stepped well up on that performance to take the Group 3 Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes by nine lengths.
Partnered with patience and confidence by Pat Smullen, he cruised ahead over a furlong down and was soon clear of the running-on Soon.
“He’s a big horse and when they start to improve you don’t know where they will finish up”, reported Weld.
“The further he goes the better he goes and is a progressive colt. He’s very idle and I put the visor on to help him concentrate.
“You know where he will run next, back here at the end of June (Irish Derby).”
Michael Halford introduced an imposing newcomer in Blue Corner to easily win the Kilsaran International Maiden.
Shane Foley was in no hurry, but this was over as a contest passing the furlong pole, as the Sheikh Mohammed-owned son of Teofilo eased clear.
“This is a big horse and you can see why he hasn’t run until now”, remarked Halford. “Hopefully, that’s just a start and he loves fast ground and will stay further.”
The Paul Deegan-trained Midnight Soprano powered to a last-gasp success in the Paddy Power Handicap.
One had to feel for Johnny Murtagh aboard the front-running Royal Diamond. The combination held a decent lead for most of the journey and entered the final furlong looking sure to score. But 7lbs claimer, Marc Monaghan, was now getting a real tune out of Midnight Soprano and the mare nailed Royal Diamond near the line.
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