Murtagh sits pretty with Ambivalent

Leading rider at Royal Ascot last week, Johnny Murtagh again stole the show at the Curragh yesterday when giving the Roger Varian-trained 10/1 shot Ambivalent a superb front-running rider to land the Group 1 Oxigen Environmental Pretty Polly Stakes.

A first winner in Ireland for her trainer, the daughter of Authorized dictated the pace and kept finding for Murtagh up the long Curragh straight as her rivals queued-up to deliver a challenge.

Ambivalent fought tenaciously through the final furlong to hold last year’s Investec Oaks winner and runner-up Was and Shirocco Sta by a half-length and a neck, with Harasiya faring best of the three-year-olds in fourth in a race from which morning favourite Alive Alive Oh was withdrawn (reported to be in season).

A delighted Roger Varian said: “It’s amazing. She’s a filly with a quirk and not straight-forward. She ran well in the Middleton but is a bit keen when she’s held up. The last day, in Haydock, she lost the race before the start and the lads did a brilliant job, keeping her calm and relaxed today,”

Varian added, “Johnny gave her a brilliant ride. She stays well, so we decided there was nothing to be lost by letting her go forward. She’s very tough and I knew she’d keep going.”

The winning trainer admitted that his plan was to “enjoy the day” and confirmed that he has no firm plans for Ambivalent, which is owned by Ali Saeed.

Johnny Murtagh, who picked-up a four-day careless riding ban earlier on Colour Blue, confirmed: “Roger said that she’s a bit hot, but hardy and tough and we felt I should let her stride on. The race was pretty straight-forward. I knew we had them all line-up from two furlongs down but she dug deep. It’s been a great few weeks for me!”

Aidan O’Brien, who reported that Pretty Polly runner-up Was will probably head for the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and the Yorkshire Oaks en route to the Breeders Cup Fillies & Mares at Santa Anita in November, completed a fine treble on the supporting card, capturing Group 3 prizes with Bye Bye Birdie and Ernest Hemingway.

Visored for the first time, Bye Bye Birdie made all to slam favourite Heart Foicus by three lengths in the Group 3 Grangecon Stud Stakes for two-year-old fillies, prompting O’Brien to comment: “She has a lot of ability but is too laid-back. Joseph has been telling me that she was keeping plenty back. So I felt that the visors would wake her up. She minds herself and came back from Ascot 4kg. heavier than she was when she left.”

Ballydoyle’s second Group 3 win came in the At The Races Curragh Cup when stable second-string Ernest Hemingway, ridden by Seamus Heffernan, swept past his rivals to score convincingly by five lengths from last year’s Irsh St. Leger winner Royal Diamond.

“He’s a lovely imposing horse and this was the first time he stepped-up in trip. He showed good acceleration and looks like an Irish St. Leger or Ebor horse.”

But the middle leg of the treble gave O’Brien most satisfaction as he watched his teenage daughter Sarah bring Beach Of Falesa with a perfectly-timed challenge to beat Eighteen Summers in the Ladies Derby.

This was Sarah’s first racecourse success and her proud dad admitted: “This is a special one. It’s a great day and a great track to do it. The filly likes to be waited with and Sarah did a great job on her.”

Relaxing in Croke Park after Trading Leather’s superb Derby victory on Saturday, Jim Bolger missed seeing the Kevin Manning-ridden Renaissance Art make a successful debut in the opening two-year-old maiden, holding slow-starting fellow debutant and uneasy favourite Australia by a neck.


Arts Editor Des O'Driscoll provides today's top telly tips.Monday's TV highlights: Spurs vs. Everton, and drama from 'Love/Hate' and 'I May Destroy You'

Barbara BurkeOccupation: Owner of BBpapercutsMeet the artist who's putting papercutting on the map

More From The Irish Examiner