Memorable Irish visit for Hugo Palmer
Rare Curragh raid lands big race weekend double including first Classic for Newmarket based trainer
Hugo Palmer wouldn't have been a general household name on these shores before now but many punters will be keeping a note of any future Irish raids after a fantastic couple of days that yielded a first Group One triumph for the man who only started training in 2011.
Once an assistant to Australia's leading trainer Gai Waterhouse, Palmer only had three runners in Ireland prior to this weekend.
But his first trip to the Curragh brought about a weekend that he would never forget as his bold decision to supplement Covert Love for Saturday's Darley Irish Oaks was an inspired one and Home Of The Brave polished off his finest weekends work of his career when running out a convincing winner of the Group Three Friarstown Stud Minstrel Stakes yesterday afternoon.
Palmer admitted that an important date next week that will see him married meant that Saturday was the last time he could say "it was the best day of his life" but in racing terms a first Classic will forever be unforgettable.
Much of the attention ahead of the race was about the vastly improved Curvy who began the season rated 72 and progressed to win the Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes but Covert Love's progression also looked unlikely over the winter months.
Like Curvy, Covert Love was supplemented for the race at the significant price of €40,000 and before her Classic winning season started her only line of form in the book was a fifth placed effort on the all-weather at Lingfield in October.
Covert Love is unbeaten since however winning her maiden on Chelmsford City's all-weather surface before going through the ranks to win a handicap at York and a listed contest at Newcastle last month.
Under a fine and intelligent ride from the ever reliable Pat Smullen, which was rightfully highly praised by the trainer, Covert Love passed the front-running Together Forever a furlong out and never saw another rival as Jack Naylor and Curvy battled out for minor honours in behind.
It was a fine effort from trainer, jockey and horse and after using all previous prize-money on the late entry for Saturday's feature, the Fomo Syndicate now have €232,000 to contemplate adding her to the Yorkshire Oaks and later, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe fields.
The first three home could all meet again in the Yorkshire Oaks which could be quite a memorable renewal next month if all intentions are realised.
Palmer insisted yesterday that he felt Home Of The Brave "would win" the Group Three Friarstown Stud Minstrel Stakes "but not quite like that" as the three-year-old cruised to a three-and-a-half-length victory over Gordon Lord Byron.
If Palmer's Irish raids were previously rare and unsuccessful, James Doyle's fondness of these shores was again evident as he partnered Home Of The Brave and having kept good company in both starts so far this season, the son of Starspangledbanner claimed a deserved success getting 12lbs from the runner-up.
Available at 12/1 in places yesterday morning, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Wedding Wow was returned half that price when winning the feature Group Two Kilboy Estate Stakes on yesterday's card in the hands of Joseph O'Brien.
The confidence was justified as the three-year-old finished out strongly to see off 11/4 favourite Brooch and Jessica Harrington's Bocca Baciata and the winning rider thinks there could be more to come.
"She had some nice form early in the season but she was a bit too keen in Ascot with the blinkers on over a mile and a half," O'Brien said.
"Back in trip today she settled and there wasn't much pace on and in fairness to her she quickened up really good.
"A mile to a mile and a quarter is probably her trip and we could probably think about races in America for her and it's good to win a group race with her and a pedigree like she has."