Saturday 16 December 2017

Hogan happy as Gordon lords it in Desmond

GORDON LORD BYRON (pictured) took full advantage of the absence of Darwin to win the Desmond Stakes at Leopardstown last night.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Darwin would have been a warm order but was taken out following a change to ground conditions with rain at the venue.

Tom Hogan's Group One-winning stable star was dropping to Group Three company but was also having a rare run over a mile, although he was fourth in the Hong Kong Mile in December.

Ridden by Johnny Murtagh, as he was when third to Moonlight Cloud and Lethal Force in Deauville last time out, the 4/9 favourite appeared to need every yard of the trip as he had to work hard to get past long-time leader Ansgar for a neck success.

Hogan said: "I'm delighted he won. He ground it out. His best form has been on fast ground, and that was maybe not as good a form as he has shown in France.

"But I'm happy, it's a nice race to win. It's one of the old traditional Group races.

"Johnny gave him a good ride and it's nice to get his head in front again.

"He has lots of options, he will stay the mile – he proved that.

"He might go back for the Hong Kong Mile and the Breeders' Cup is an option."

Free Eagle could hardly have been more impressive in winning the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Maiden.

The Dermot Weld-trained newcomer is bred in the purple as a half-brother to the filly Sapphire and looks to have inherited plenty of the family's ability.

Pat Smullen's mount shot clear when asked after straightening for home, forging five and a half lengths clear of Orchestra and Wexford Town at the line.

This race has a rich recent history and was won by this year's Epsom Derby third Galileo Rock 12 months ago.

Weld said of the 11/4 favourite: "He did what I expected him to do and he's just a lovely colt.

"We'll see how he comes out of it but he's so relaxed I'd expect that he'll come out of it well.

"He'll have one more run.

"I've no definite plans, maybe the Beresford and he's also in the Racing Post Trophy, we'll see.

"He's a stayer with speed and is a horse with an awful lot to look forward to next year.

"He has a lovely attitude, temperament and confirmation. Everything a good horse needs.

"He's a beautiful-actioned horse. The rain left the ground absolutely perfect."

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