THE featured Topaz Mile EBF Handicap at Galway last night was won in the proverbial canter by the Joe Murphy trained Ask Jack.
Twelve months earlier, Ask Jack was beaten a short head by Fit The Cove over seven furlongs here. “We have been planning this for the last year”, exclaimed Murphy.
The winner had a great draw in 17 and Chris Hayes, successful in the contest two years earlier on Celtic Dane, made the very best of it.
He kept it simple, flashed Ask Jack out and away and the combination was never headed. Mid Mon Lady produced a spirited challenge in the straight, but was never going to get near Ask Jack and the verdict was a cosy two and a half lengths.
Said Murphy: “He is in here again on Saturday over seven furlongs and, if coming out of this well, will run again.
“The draw was vital, if you don’t have a good draw in this race you have no chance. He is a very genuine horse.”
The rest of the evening largely consisted of what could be best described as a Dermot Weld benefit. He saddled four winners, taking his total to six for the two days. Weld’s best at the Festival is ten and he has to have a live chance now of beating that.
The undoubted star of the Weld show was his newcomer Zaminast, a half-sister to Famous Name, in the two-year-old maiden for fillies.
She put up an extraordinary performance, running green in the early stages and taking lots of time to get the hang of what was required.
She was only eighth in the dip and a poor fifth into the straight, as Ballybacka Lady struck for home.
But Pat Smullen conjured an astonishing late burst from Zaminast and, in the end, she actually won snugly. Said Weld: “Potentially, she could be very good. I would like to run her once more this season, in either the Moyglare or the C L Weld Park Stakes (both at the Curragh). She showed determination, guts and courage.”
Weld’s Universal Truth, absent since making his debut over jumps at Leopardstown at Christmas, stripped fresh and well to justify some tasty wagers in the Topaz Maiden Hurdle.
Backed from 9-4 to 13-8, he got a quite brilliant ride from Robbie McNamara to beat Drumfire by half a length.
The winner was always in the first two and McNamara made his move four out, sending his charge into the lead.
Drumfire stayed on powerfully from the last, but was always struggling to really get on terms and there was half a length between them at the line.
“The amateur (McNamara) rode well”, said a clearly pleased Weld, with more than a hint of understatement.
“He (Universal Truth) knew his job and his jumping won it. We made a lot of use of him, because of his jumping.”
A winners’ hurdle and the Irish Cesarewitch are now on the agenda.
Weld was on the mark again, enjoying his initial success of the week on the flat, when Easy Mate defied top weight in the Topaz Handicap.
The Rosewell House maestro entrusted the ride to his apprentice, Leigh Roche, and the youngster’s 7lbs claim proved invaluable.
Don Leone made most of the running, but Easy Mate edged on at the furlong pole and Roche was seen to real effect in the closing stages to land his mount a neck winner. Roche comes from Abbeyknockmoy, near Tuam.
Said Weld: “It’s great for a local boy to win a handicap at Galway. Just like Robbie, he is learning his trade well.”
Roche, however, was suspended for a day for careless riding, having been found guilty of causing interference to the runner-up after the finishing line.
The final Weld winner came in the concluding three-year-old maiden when his first-timer, Parlour, was far too good for the opposition.
Pat Smullen, completing a double, allowed her lead turning in and the daughter of Dansili had no trouble holding Purple Land.
“She was weak and immature, but has come forward in the last few weeks”, reported Weld. “I expect her to get black type before the end of the year.”
Ian Williams’ English challenger Invisible Man won the Latin Quarter Chase with ridiculous ease.
Barry Geraghty allowed him lead over two out and never had to move a muscle, as the five-year-old eased clear on the bridle to score unextended by 11 lengths.
Williams had a winner at the Festival previously, The Prince, who took a claiming race on the flat in 2003, partnered by Johnny Murtagh. Invisible Man is second reserve for this afternoon’s Plate, but Williams is losing no sleep about him failing to get a run.
Commented Williams: “People have said it’s a shame he didn’t get into the Plate, but I don’t think has enough match experience.
“He will have a break now and come back for something like one of those early meetings at Cheltenham.”
The great Liam Cashman of Rathbarry Stud died earlier in the year and his son, Paul, took particular pleasure seeing Miss Eze flash through late to beat He’s Got Rhythm a short head in the Caulfield Industrial Athlone Handicap.
“That’s for the boss above, he bought her and was a great judge”, said Paul. “She might win here again on Thursday.”
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