JOHNNY Murtagh bolstered his defence of the Jockeys Championship title when following Saturday’s treble at Leopardstown with a double on two-year-olds Factum and Warning Flag at Dundalk yesterday.
Runner-up in Killarney last time Factum, a son of Storm Cat, had to work hard to justify 1/2 favouritism in the one-mile Damien Dempsey Live At Dundalk 2-Y-0 Race.
Having made the running, he was headed by Triple Eight at the furlong-pole but fought back under Murtagh’s strong driving to short-head his rival, prompting Murtagh to comment: “He’s still very green and raw and it helped when Pat’s horse came at him,. He kept finding for me and hit the line on a good stride.”
An American-bred son of War Front, Warning Flag completed Murtagh’s double despite proving virtually friendless in the market for the two-year-old median auction maiden.
The David Wachman trained colt, a promising second on his debut in Cork, took command from the two-furlong market to beat The Reaper by a length and a half and was described by his trainer as “a nice improving colt”.
Wachman added: “He handled the drop back from a mile to seven furlongs no problem and won well. He should make a nice colt next year.”
Sharing the riding honours with Murtagh was Colm O’Donoghue who doubled-up on The Grey Rebel and Move, both trained by in-form David Marnane, who was bringing his seasonal tally in Ireland to twenty-six.
A recent winner in Cork, The Grey Rebel emerged best in a blanket-finish to the opening five-furlong handicap, getting the better of veteran Flash McGahon by a neck.
Wachman commented:, “He was a weak two-year-old, a bit of a late developer. But he’s a nice horse and, the way he’s going, he’ll be even better next year. He likes it around here and he’ll be back.”
Marnane saddled first and second in the later Group Discounts At Dundalk Stadium Maiden. But stable supporters got a fright before the O’Donoghue-ridden Move (4/1) got up in the last few strides to deny 25/1 shot Sensational Day (Declan McDonogh).
“We bought her cheaply, but she’s a well-bred filly, ” said Marnane. “What I like most about her is her attitude and she needed it to get up out there.”
Kevin Manning drew high praise from winning trainer Paul Deegan after bringing Moonlight Rock with steady run from the back of the field to land the Crowne Plaza Race & Stay Package Handicap from favourite Boynagh Joy.
“He’s not straight forward and we were unsure about him over the trip,” admitted Deegan. “But Kevin gave him a great ride. He just kidded him along and got there at just the right time.”
Eddie Lynam won the email@example.com Handicap, not with top-weight and favourite Denny Crane (“a bit unlucky” according to his trainer) but with the Pat Smullen-partnered Word For Word, which beat Try Freedom (Johnny Murtagh) by a neck.
The winning trainer admitted: “I had to ask the handicapper to put him up a couple of pounds, to keep him in the system. But I wasn’t going to run him here, because I thought the other horse (Denny Crane) was a certainty.”
Irish Champion Stakes hero Seamus Heffernan was responsible for a “fantastic ride”, according to trainer Adrian Maguire, after landing the finale, the two-mile Oriel Handicap on Anshan Dream which foiled recent Ballinrobe chase winner Keelaghan by a half-length.
Maguire said: “He’s not a bad horse, but had leg trouble and the plan is to go hurdling with him.”
Apprentice Kieran O’Neill was seen to good effect on the Willie McCreery trained Whisper Cool, a narrow winner of the Fairways Hotel Handicap from Aidan O’Brien’s course and distance winner Lastofthemohicans.
“He got in nicely at the weights,” said McCreery. “That’s his first win on the flat and I wanted to give him a chance at this game before he goes back over hurdles – at Gowran Park early next month. He likes nice ground and I thought this place would suit him.”
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