FAME And Glory justified 30/100 favouritism in the listed Seamus And Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown yesterday.
But his hard-fought victory over Vivacious Vivienne and last year’s Ascot Gold Cup winner Rite Of Passage was not particularly impressive.
Having travelled strongly, the five-year-old was restrained by Jamie Spencer approaching the straight before delivering his challenge. Passing the two-furlong pole, he looked set to sweep past his rivals but became involved in a battle which saw him edge home a half-length ahead of 97-rated Vivacious Vivienne, with Rite Of Passage three-quarters of a length away third and Fictional Account a close fourth.
Most firms left Fame And Glory unchanged for his immediate target, the Ascot Gold Cup. But Aidan O’Brien expressed himself “delighted“, in customary style, commenting: “It looked a good, solid-run race. Jamie said he took a pull about four furlongs out and the horse came alive. He’s a courageous horse, with a lot of class.”
When asked about Fame And Glory’s prospects of staying two and a half miles in the Ascot Gold Cup, when he’ll renew rivalry with Rite Of Passage, he suggested: “That was a tough-run race and he had to fight. It was much tougher than the Navan race but I was happy he kept going and wasn’t stopping at the line.
“That would tell me that he has a good chance of staying two miles. But anything can happen when you go beyond two miles. He’ll be going into no man’s land and the Gold Cup can be a strange race.”
Dermot Weld, whose Rite Of Passage was having his first run since winning the Ascot Gold Cup last June, was understandably upbeat about his charge, commenting: “I’m very happy. That was a very creditable run. Pat said he got a bit tired turning into the straight. But he was coming back well at the line and the extra distance will play to his strengths at Ascot.”
Earlier, Bewitched made an impressive seasonal debut when swooping late to record an emphatic win over Zoffany and Glor Na Mara in the Group 3 Ballycorus Stakes. Settled towards the back of the field by Johnny Murtagh, the Dansili filly quickened in great style to sweep past her rivals inside the final furlong to beat penalised Group 1 winner Zoffany by a length and quarter, to the delighted of trainer Charles O’Brien and his mother Jacqueline, who owns the filly in partnership with her daughter Sue Magnier.
O’Brien commented: “She’s a very good-moving filly and I had no worries about the ground, although I consider her a six-furlong filly.
“Johnny was very happy with her and says she’s stronger, with a better attitude, than last year. It was a good performance after an interrupted preparation and she should definitely improve from the run.”
“She’s in the Golden Jubilee (at Royal Ascot) but I’m not fanatical about the race — it’s probably the hottest Group 1 over six furlongs of the season. So we might take our time and set our sights on a Group 1 at Deauville or Haydock later in the year.”
Aidan O’Brien expressed himself satisfied with runner-up Zoffany, which was making his seasonal bow, stating, “Colm (O’Donoghue) said he travelled strongly and came there well, but got a bit tired. He’ll come on well for the run and he’ll probably go for the St. James’s Palace at Ascot”.
O’Brien, successful with Fame And Glory, completed a double when 4/7 favourite Apache, ridden by his son Joseph, recouped some of the losses incurred in his two previous outings this season by landing the concluding Leopardstown Family Fun Day Maiden in good style. Suited by the strong pace set by Long Journey Home and settled in third spot, Apache cruised through to master the front-runner with a furlong and a half to race before stretching clear to score by five and a half lengths. O’Brien suggested that the son of Galileo was suited by the step-up in trip and will consider a number of options for him at Royal Ascot.
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