Panther rules st leger rivals
First Group One win for Dascombe and Owen
Irish Champions Weekend will be memorable for a whole host of reasons - the majority of which are extremely positive - but for ex-footballer Michael Owen and his trainer Tom Dascombe it will be a day they'll never forget as Brown Panther provided them both with a maiden Group One victory in the Palmerstown House Irish St Leger.
The feature on day two of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh was watched by almost 11,000 people - more than double what was in attendance on the same day last year - and although the majority of those expected to see Leading Light add to his Ascot Gold Cup win, it was Brown Panther who ran out an extremely impressive victor.
Third in the race two years ago behind Royal Diamond - Brown Panther was only beaten a-head-and-a-short-head on that occasion, but in the hands of regular rider Richard Kingscote the six-year-old ran cruised to a six-and-a-half-length demolition of a high-class field which saw Leading Light win the race for second and Encke was back in third for Charlie Appleby.
Owen, who owns the horse in partnership with Andrew Black, admitted his concern when Kingscote tracked pacemaker Eye Of The Storm and that pair were clear of the field on the approach to the straight.
The former England international said: "We thought the pacemaker would go on and we were planning on tucking in behind in third or fourth but Richard was a bit closer to the pace than we envisaged him to be.
"It's always best to leave it with the jockey in that situation and Richard clearly knew what he was doing. But I must admit that when he was still so close to the pacemaker still with only half-a-mile to go I thought he may have gone a yard too quick.
"It was very special and it was his first Group One win and he is the apple of my eye as everyone knows. He was pretty spectacular out there today so we are really pleased."
Ascot is next on the agenda for Brown Panther, who will now contest the British Champions Long Distance Cup won last year by Royal Diamond.
Of the 9/10 favourite Leading Light, Aidan O'Brien said afterwards: "The first two got away and he was a little unfortunate as he needs company to make up the ground. He's the same working. We'll look at Arc weekend otherwise he'll be put away with a view to Ascot (Gold Cup) next year."
It was undoubtedly a frustrating weekend for Ballydoyle but following on from John F Kennedy at Leopardstown on Saturday, Gleneagles won the Group One Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes in good style. "He's progressing lovely and he has plenty of speed to I would say he's a Guineas horse first of all and we'll see about the Derby then," said the winning trainer.
"He is a horse that has stepped up well and either himself or John F Kennedy could go for the Dewhurst."
If O'Brien's weekend could be described as frustrating, Roger Varian's was the exact opposite and he and jockey Andrea Atzeni added to the English St Leger win of Kingston Hill when Cursory Glance justified favouritism in the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes.
"She is highly talented and has tremendous natural speed. She is a Group One winner now and that is probably it for the season as hopefully she has a big year ahead next year," Varian said.
Chicquita made a satisfactory racecourse debut for her new connections but had to settle for second place behind the ever-improving Tarfasha, who could be targeted at the Breeders' Cup according to her trainer Dermot Weld. He will also consider the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meeting.