MANY plans by trainers and owners to gain success and possibly a ‘touch’ at Down Royal’s premier Derby meeting on Saturday went down the drain when rain arrived at the course on Friday morning. As a result, the going changed from firm to yielding, with the majority of connections having hoped for fast going – although many of the races saw very lively markets.
A stewards’ enquiry was quickly announced after ‘Urban Oasis’ (12s to 9/1), trained by Johnny Feane, passed the post having won the Ulster Derby with apprentice, Jamie Powell in the saddle. The winner, slowly away from the stalls, ran last for most of the race until improving from the three-furlong mark. Kevin Manning adopted front running tactics aboard ‘Manu Et Corde’ (finished third), however, in the last 100 yards the winner challenged between horses, causing the runner up to check, while ‘Cougar’ on the outside, having raced alongside stable companion ‘Shark Bay’ (filled fourth) for a long stretch, was outpaced late and finished runner up.
Feane said: “He was a little bit unlucky the last day when nothing went right, so I just said to Jamie to take a chance today and go down the fence and see how it would work out. Everything worked out perfectly. He did it well. He’s only small and he’s running in better races with a lighter weight. There’s a three-year-old handicap in York over a mile and six at the Ebor meeting that we are looking at. A galloping track will suit him.”
Powell added: “He started winning off a basement weight. I got the split turning in and he put the race to bed quickly. He can be a bit quirky. That’s the biggest winner I’ve ridden.”
While no alterations were made to the result, Powell received a five day ban for careless riding.
Joseph O’Brien had to settle for second in the supporting feature – the Ulster Oaks – after ‘Corky’ attempted to make all the running, only to be caught in the last 100 yards when apprentice Siobhan Rutledge, having raced on the rail, pulled the Thomas Gibney trained ‘Atavique’ wide to get a run and readily caught the runner up providing the rider with the biggest success of her career to date.
Gibney said: “I had the race written off with about two furlongs to go, as it didn’t go according to plan. She didn’t jump well and they went slow. We had been riding her handy away, which seemed to suit. She’s just a good mare and she got the gap and she was able to take it. She has improved a tonne as we can all see. There is actually a handicap in Galway for her – we only have until either the first or second week in August (as she’s in foal).” Rutledge added: “That’s my biggest winner to date – I was glad to see the gap coming in the closing stages.” Rutledge definitely showcased her talents on Derby day, when combining with McConnell to score on ‘Wild Shot’, challenging between horses in the final 75 yards to prevail in the penultimate race.
Trainer, Joseph O’Brien and jockey Shane Crosse – who landed the most valuable race of the week at Royal Ascot, the million pound plus Prince Of Wales Stakes – combined to claim the first two races. ‘Spartan Army’ was ridden for the stalls to quickly lead and readily disposed of rivals with the locally trained, ‘Regally Blonde’ filling second.
Crosse said: “It has took a while for the penny to drop and that would be the minimum trip for him.” ‘Onameriedance’ quickly turned the second race into a rout from the elbow and could be much better than the bare form. Again Tyrone trainer, Andy Oliver supplied the runner up with ‘Chaos Control’.
Assistant trainer, Brendan Powell said: “Last day, he hung badly right but Joseph changed the bit today.”
Flat or jumps it’s little difference to trainer, John McConnell and ‘Fennor Cross’, having travelled ominously well as he improved second under Donagh O’Connor at the top of Gravel Hill, duly bolted home in the 40-70 handicap. Second and third were locals.
O’Connor said: “He travelled throughout and is progressing – I think the owners have Galway in their head.” McConnell said: “You see the size of him, he’s big and he is probably only filling out into himself now. That’s probably where the improvement has come and we’ve stepped him up in trip again. I’d say he will go to Galway now – the lads (owners) are over the moon.”
The finale saw Kevin Manning give a master class on front running tactics aboard ‘Dancila’, trained by his father-in-law Jim Bolger, gaining a little compensation for defeat in the feature.
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