herald

Tuesday 22 August 2017

aidan signs off in style

The end of season awards were well and truly engraved going to Leopardstown this weekend and there were to be no surprises or changes to the gongs handed out.

Instead, those in attendance may have been treated to a glimpse of some potential Classic hopes for next season.

Proceedings began with a Ballydoyle maiden winner as Easter opened her account on her second outing of the month and Aidan O'Brien pinpointed her as a possible Oaks filly for 2015.

That was to be Aidan O'Brien's final winner of the Irish turf season, which proved to be one with many ups and downs.

After a spate of impressive two-year-old winners in the second half of this year, there's no doubt the champion trainer has a lot to look forward to for the new season.

O'Brien said; "We won some races, lost some races and that's the way it is, it doesn't go your way all the time. We won some nice races and we're delighted. We'll have some nice three-year-olds to look forward to next year and that's the main thing."

O'Brien of course will be engaged at Santa Anita next week for the Breeders' Cup, after also becoming the first overseas trainer to win the Cox Plate in Moonee Valley on Saturday.

Jockey Pat Smullen was crowned champion of Ireland for the seventh time but admitted that it was his achievement of riding over 100 winners for the first time that gave him most satisfaction.

Smullen capped off his fine season domestically with a colt that his boss Dermot Weld described as "potentially high class", as Zawraq made a winning debut in the seven-furlong maiden.

Aidan O'Brien sent out the odds-on favourite in the race in the well-touted Sir Iasac Newton, who possibly even slightly headed the winner inside the final furlong. But Zawraq dug very deep to oblige by half a length as the pair drew seven-lengths clear.

IMPRESSED

The bookmakers were impressed, and Boylesports included Zawraq in their 2,000 Guineas market at 20/1.

Weld said of Smullen's season: "He is a professional's professional and deserves it, that's the best thing I can say about Pat Smullen.

"His work ethic and his work-rate is huge, he deserves the success he gets."

The Offaly native can himself look forward to Tarfasha at the Breeders' Cup next weekend but after enjoying 108 winners this term, he is already looking ahead.

"Needless to say I couldn't have done it without the support of the boss and all the owners. The slate is wiped clean now, and we have to start all over again!"

Trainer Jim Bolger had a relatively quiet season by his high standards but he certainly finished with a flourish as he took three of the four pattern races over the weekend at Leopardstown and Parish Boy, who claimed yesterday's Trigo Stakes, is a possible 2,000 Guineas contender he suggested.

The Godolphin-owned son of New Approach had run well in a Leopardstown maiden before beating Order Of St George next time out and he lowered the colours of that Ballydoyle runner again yesterday when defying a lay-off since early August.

Bolger said: "I am viewing him now as a Guineas horse, either the Irish or the English. He came back so well today after a long lay-off that we may not need to give him a trial. I think he'll get a mile and a half.

While the main focus was on Leopardstown, Dermot Weld also enjoyed success at Galway and it was another notable performance by a Weld-trained stayer who made it four from his last four under Robbie McNamara.

The dual bumper winner followed up his win on the flat to add an impressive nine and a half length victory to his cv, with the winning rider going as far to suggest: "If he keeps improving he could be an Ascot Gold Cup horse," which is a brave statement from the yard that houses other leading stayer Forgotten Rules.

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