Narrowly beaten by Sky Lantern in the English equivalent, 2/1 favourite Just The Judge gained ample compensation when landing the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guinea at the Curragh yesterday.
In the colours of Qatar Racing, the Lawman filly won emphatically by a length and a half, in the hands of Jamie Spencer, from the fast-finishing longshot Rehn’s Nest with Just Pretending third and Big Break a close fourth.
Just The Judge was a first classic winner for trainer Charlie Hills and provided Jamie Spencer with his second Irish 1,000 Guineas triumph, 15 years after Tarascon.
Having tracked the leaders, Just The Judge challenged Just Pretending two furlongs from home and, soon in command, won with plenty in hand.
A delighted Charlie Hills admitted: “I feel pretty good, but it’s more relief than anything. It was a big decision to come here and it has paid off.
“Jamie gave her a beautiful ride. He had her in the right position all the way and made his move at just the right time.
“It’s great for Qatar Racing and Sheikh Fahad (Al Thani) – they are great supporters of the sport.”
When asked about plans for the winner, Hills responded: “The Coronation Stakes (at Royal Ascot) is the race for. It’s 26 days away, which is perfect timing.”
Al Kazeem, trained by Roger Charlton and ridden by James Doyle, turned over dual Derby-winner and 4/11 hot-pot Camelot in the earlier Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup.
The winner, off the track after sustaining a stress fracture of his pelvis when winning the Jockey Club Stakes last year until landing the recent Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown, stalked Camelot in the four-runner contest and, after Joseph O’Brien made his move at the two furlong-pole, soon challenged.
On top inside the final furlong, Al Kazeem scored by a length and a half, prompting his trainer to comment: “The plan was to track Camelot. And James rode a beautiful, confident race. We had great respect for Camelot coming here. And it’s a great achievement to beat him.
“He showed a good cruising speed today and all of the top ten furlongs races are open to him, including the ‘Price Of Wales’ and the ‘Eclipse’. And we know he stays a mile and a half well. The ground was a bit lively for him today, as he’s a much better horse with some cut. The ‘Arc’ is definitely a race to consider – all the best horses run in it.”
Sent off at 4/6, Leading Light made all to land the Group 3 Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes in emphatic style from Little White Cloud, completing a double for Aidan and Joseph O’Brien.
The winning trainer said: “He’s a very straightforward Montjeu. He’s lazy, but doesn’t mind going along in front and, when you go for him, there’s plenty there.”
While the Irish Derby is a possible target for Leading Light, O’Brien indicated that a trip to Royal Ascot, for either the King Edward VII Stakes or Queen’s Vase is more likely.
“I was afraid he was a bit babyish, but he loved that ground. And you’d have to be delighted with him,” commented O’Brien after 2/1 favourite Sir John Hawkins made a successful debut in the opening Big Bad Bob 2-Y-0 Maiden to initiate the Ballydoyle double.
The son of Henrythenavigator and Peeping Fawn challenged late to beat Intensified and Sudirman and could be part of Ballydoyle’s team for Royal Ascot, as his trainer confirmed: “He has plenty of speed and could be an Ascot horse, if it doesn’t come too soon. He should learn plenty from today.”
Boylesports gave Sir John Hawkins a 20/1 quote for the 2014 Qipco 2,000 Guineas.
Trainer Michael Halford and Shane Foley shared a handicap double with Paddy The Celeb and Via Ballycroy.
The tough and consistent Paddy The Celeb bagged the valuable Irish Daily Mail (Premier) Handicap at the expense of the gallant mare Leah Claire and Show Court while Via Ballycroy held on gamely in a blanket-finish to the six-furlong Texacloth Handicap, beating Arbitrageur by a half-length.
Halford reported: “She’s in foal to Cape Cross and we’ll try to get some black type for her before she finishes.”
And, out of luck in the Guineas, Jim Bolger landed the concluding maiden with the once-raced four-year-old Mr Greeley filly Maggie Dalton, ridden by Kevin Manning, which got the better of Orator by a head.
“She’s a big filly, but she’s a good sort, one for later on,” said Bolger, who confirmed that his Guineas third Rehn’s Nest would run in either the Coronation Stakes or Irish Oaks, or both.
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