Successful off 75 in a handicap on this card last year (middle leg of a five-time in handicaps) and now rated 108, the Andy Oliver-trained Panama Hat landed the listed Lenabane Stakes in Roscommon last night under an inspired ride by Chris Hayes.
The tough five-year-old, normally ridden prominently, was tried in blinkers for the first time but appeared to sulk and struggle for most of the journey, with Hayes “stoking him along” in the words of his trainer.
Still last turning into the straight as Drifting Mist continued to stretch the field, Hayes made his move on the outside and Panama Hat stayed on dourly to lead inside the final furlong and beat Altesse by a length, with Toe The Line two lengths away third.
“We were very disappointed with his Curragh run and decided to try blinkers and change tactics tonight, “explained a delighted Andy Oliver. “But the plan didn’t work and Chris was stoking away on him from an early stage. Fair play to Chris – he knows the horse well and didn’t panic. He kept him interested and got him around the last turn before he got him rolling.
“At least, it shows the horse retains his ability. ”
Affinisea, a Sea The Stars half-brother to Irish Derby winner Soldier Of Fortune, bred by Jim Bolger and sold as a foal for €850,000, made an impressive, if belated, debut in the concluding At The Races Maiden.
The John Oxx-trained four-year-old, in the colours of Sunderland Holdings, stretched clear for Declan McDonogh in the last furlong and a half to slam Macnicholson by five and a half lengths.
Oxx explained: “It’s nice to win after such a long wait. He got injured after he was broken and did nothing as a two-year-old and very little at three. Realistically, we’ve only been training him since last autumn.
“That earlier shower helped as he likes an ease. But he has talent, a great pedigree, is a beautiful looking horse and has a bit of an engine. He has always been in his comfort-zone and this was the first time he galloped on grass. He could be a horse to have as a five-year-old.
“I’d like to find a winners of one for him and he might get an entry in the mile and six furlong race on the Friday of Galway.”
Favourite-backers knew their fate early in the opening two-year-old maiden as Shane Foley’s saddle on 13/8 shot Haraz slipped forward after less than two furlongs, rendering him ineffective on Michael Halford’s charge which trailed in last of six behind the Aidan O’Brien-trained Antelope Canyon, strongly ridden by Joseph, to beat Escondida (Kevin Manning) by three-quarters of a length.
“Emmet said he was very green the first day and that he’d come on a lot and he was green again in the Curragh,” explained Joseph. “But the step-up to seven furlongs and cheekpieces were a big help and we think he’ll continue to progress with racing.”
Out of luck with Haraz in the opener, Michael Halford and Shane Foley gained compensation when the Godolphin-owned Monolight dug deep to beat favourite Van Schaick by a head in the Irish Stallion Farms Maiden.
“He was lucky not to be carried out on the stands bend and is quite idle – he makes life difficult for himself,” explained Halford. “But the cheekpieces and an ease in the ground were a help. He deserved to get his head in front and will go handicapping.”
The Van Schaick team of Ger Lyons and Shane Foley enjoyed better luck when Azzuri defied top-weight in the Roscommon Herald Handicap, holding Buzz Off Barroso by a neck and prompting Lyons to comment: “The rain came in time and the trip was right for him.Colin said he was brave and tough and kept going well. He looks made for the jumping boys.”
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