Brilliant Bethrah claims close-fought 1000 Guineas
Dermot Weld claimed a fourth Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh yesterday as Bethrah, under the guidance of Pat Smullen, weaved her way through to victory in what was a thrilling finish.
On a glorious weekend at HQ, the first five home in yesterday's feature were within just over half a length away from claiming the second Classic of the domestic season, but it was Smullen who got the passage up the rail from a wider berth originally to lead home the travelling pair of Anna Salai and Music Show.
Weld was completing a double on the day and claiming a 12th Irish Classic in total and, while the eventual winner, carrying the colours of Hamdan Al Maktoum, was 16/1, Weld was delighted with the fillies progress throughout the season to date.
"First of all I am delighted to have trained my first Classic winner for Hamdan Al Maktoum; he has been a very loyal supporter over the years," said Weld.
"She is a very improving filly, she did it well in Limerick and won a Group Three in Leopardstown and has been getting better with every race. She is tough and genuine."
Music Show was sent off the 3/1 favourite on the back of her sixth place finish at Newmarket when she led home one side of the Guineas field, but in a race that had all the hallmarks of being competitive, it certainly didn't disappoint.
"She had just one run last season in the Goffs Million and I wouldn't have ran her in that race unless I thought a bit of her. She had her problems but there was a lot of hard work put into her over the winter and that has paid off today as you saw.
"Today was the day and we will start looking at the future tomorrow. I will speak to Sheikh Hamdan but I don't think she is a filly that has to be restricted to a mile. She looks like she will get a mile and a quarter and today she wanted every yard of the Curragh mile."
It was an inspired piece of gap finding by Smullen, who was enjoying his seventh Irish Classic, and he had got the day off to the best possible start as Royal Ascot bound Moonlit Garden made a winning debut.
The Weld trained daughter of Exceed And Excel made most of the running in the six-furlong two-year-old maiden at odds of 10/1.
"She won very nicely and it will be the Queen Mary Stakes next for her. She is a sharp filly and she was showing a lot more pace then our other two-year-olds and she justified that."
Aidan O'Brien, Johnny Murtagh and all those at Ballydoyle may not have experienced their almost accustomed all-conquering start to the season this year, but things were certainly looking bright for the outfit yesterday as they pitched in with a treble on the card.
Last year's Irish Derby winner Fame And Glory secured a second victory of the season in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and he may now take in the Coronation Cup before having a break ahead of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which appears his main target for the season.
The winning trainer stated afterwards: "I am delighted with that, you have seen yourself how he has been coming forward from his first run to his second and now from his second to his third, and that's what we felt he could do over 1m2f.
"He will more than likely run in the Coronation Cup, it is a quick bounce back for him (13 days) but hopefully everything will be well. He has had a busy campaign early so we might ease off him then. He is an exciting horse."
O'Brien had earlier instigated the treble with the ultra-impressive Jan Vermeer in the Group Three Gallinule Stakes.
The son of Montjeu eased his way to the top four of the Epsom Derby picture with an easy success over Bobbyscot who, like the rest of the field, was getting at least seven pounds off the winner on his seasonal debut.
"He was just ready to come racing," revealed O'Brien afterwards. "He had been here for a canter a couple of weeks ago and Johnny felt he was ready to have a race and a race can bring them on as much as a month of work at home.
"He was very impressive -- he always was. He was always very classy and I would say there is a good bit more to come. They usually come on a lot more for the run."
O'Brien along with Murtagh and the head honchos at Ballydoyle now face a relishing, yet tricky, task as regards placing Derby hopeful's St Nicholas Abbey, Cape Blanco, Midas Touch and, of course, Jan Vermeer.
"We would ideally love to be able to split them all up, but Jan Vermeer has the option of Epsom or France and hopefully he will run in one. He travels very well and Johnny said he was always in his hands today so Epsom shouldn't be a problem. Obviously, with only 13 days, it is a concern but he did it very easily today and it is hard to go and win those races without a run, so sometimes you just prefer to take a chance and get a run like that into them."
O'Brien, who was winning the Gallinule Stakes for the 10th time, earmarked Sunday for when plans will be finalised regarding which horses run in which Derby.