More than 12,000 students produced what, I suppose, could be described as a Cheltenham-type atmosphere at Limerick last evening.
And the crowd were treated to a cracking finish in the Irish Stallion Farms’ EBF Fillies Maiden, which almost certainly threw up two very smart sorts in John Oxx’s Shebella and Kevin Prendergast’s Ahaaly.
They were both strong in the market, but Shebella, who went off favourite, emerged on top.
Ahaaly kicked with over a furlong to go and was soon a couple of lengths to the good. But Johnny Murtagh was unperturbed and Shebella powered through late to score by a snug neck.
Said Murtagh, who has six rides at Meydan tomorrow: “She was professional and knew her job. I am very pleased with her, we really quickened in the straight.”
Precious Dream continued David Wachman’s good start to the campaign with a game performance in the Students’ Of Limerick Rated Race.
Successful on her seasonal debut at Dundalk, she made all of the running for Wayne Lordan, holding on for dear life close home to beat Penniston Line by a short head.
Said Wachman: “She wants better ground and will step up in trip now.”
In-form Lordan completed a double when giving the Tommy Stack-trained Croi An Or a fine drive to win the Jog For Jockeys’ 29th July Median Auction Maiden.
Dermot Weld’s Diplomat was all the rage in the ring and he was allowed to lead after a couple of furlongs by Pat Smullen.
But Lordan soon had the leader well in his sights and Croi An Or eased past inside the furlong pole to score by a length and a quarter.
Stack’s son, Fozzy, said: “He did well over the winter and is going the right way. We have nothing specific in mind for him.”
The Stack yard then landed a double when Shane Gray guided Cnocan Diva to victory in the Special Packages Handicap.
The daughter of Danehill Dancer was a drifter in the market, 3-1 from 2’s, but finished with a flourish to nail the flattering Prince Jock.
Fozzy reported: “She was a big, weak filly last season, but has got stronger. She might win again, but wants ease in the ground.”
Trainer Andrew Oliver will have returned to his Co Tyrone base last night surely sporting a big smile, after his Bankroll had defied top weight in the Tote Jackpot Handicap.
Partnered by Chris Hayes, the son of Pivotal was backed through all the rates in the morning from 12-1 and the story on track was 5-1 to 7-2.
He won doing handstands, making most of the running to slam Landsdowne by almost five lengths.
On a night of double, Hayes was on the mark as well aboard the John Joe Walsh-trained The Four Elms in the It’s A Student’s Life Handicap.
He streaked clear in the straight and was a comfortable two and three quarters of a length to the good over market-leader, East Of Tara, at the line.
Said Walsh: “He stays really well, but would like softer ground. We will wait now until the ground eases and he will then run either on the flat again, or go back over hurdles.”
The evening concluded with a powerful display from the saddle by Kevin Manning on Ri An Domhnaigh in the Limerick Run Maiden.
He threw everything at the Rock Of Gibraltar gelding through the last two furlongs to force him up close home.
Ri An Domhnaigh did edge away to his right in the closing stages, but the result was never going to be altered, following a stewards’ inquiry.
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