Lyons and Keane in the groove as racing returns
By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Colin Keane and Ger Lyons rounded off a weekend they will never forget when landing both Listed prizes at Leopardstown today.
The Glenburnie operation registered a maiden Classic success in thrilling style courtesy of Siskin in Friday night’s Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh and were at it again courtesy of two more brilliant acts of navigation by Keane.
It got even better for the Meath pilot as he clocked up a treble by claiming the penultimate mile Leopardstown Handicap on Athlumney Hall (12/1) for her father Gerry, thanks to another magnificent ride from a widest draw.
Earlier, Keane opted not to get Nickajack Cave (12/1) involved in the strong gallop set by Oriental Eagle in the Saval Beg Levmoss Stakes and the eye was drawn to the grey Kendargent gelding owned in partnership by David Spratt, Sean Jones and the trainer’s wife Lynne prior to the turn in.
They started to make their move from three out and collared Twilight Payment a furlong and a half from home. The 15/8 favourite battled hard as the pair pulled well clear of Falcon Eight but could not repel Nickajack Cave, who had one and a half lengths in hand at the line.
“Colin was brilliant on him” said Lyons’ brother and assistant Shane to Press Association.
“He was drawn wide and said he’d drop him in as he always felt there was going to be pace in the race and let him enjoy himself.
“For the first couple of furlongs he thought the ground was going to be a bit quick for him but he’s warmed up into it lovely. He latched on three furlongs out and Colin said he felt like a really good horse.”
A tilt at the Ebor in York, a million-pound race won by Keane and Lyons with Mustajeer last year, is not in the offing for Nickajack Cave.
Heliac justified 5/2 favouritism to make off with the Noblesse Stakes. Again, Keane was patient and moved to challenge just after the two pole. Fresnel proved a doughty opponent who did not yield easily but Heliac, owned like Siskin by Khalid Abdullah, edged in front to gather the spoils by a neck with Loveisthehigherlaw only a half-length back in third having done most of the donkey work.
It has been a lean week for Dermot Weld since racing resumed in Ireland but the Rosewall House maestro got on the scoresheet in the opening Leopardstown Maiden for three-year-old fillies courtesy of the talented Eldama (2/1f).
Oisín Orr settled the Siyouni debutant in behind the pace-setting Satin And Silk and She Loves A Night and once he pressed the button, she had far too many gears for the opposition, Bearberry coming home best of the rest.
“She’s a nice filly” said the trainer’s son and assistant Kris.
“Our horses are a little bit behind because they are looking at the grass and saying, ‘That’s for eating and not necessarily for galloping on!’ The Curragh has been in drought since the last week of March, so training them hasn’t been the easiest.
“She’s done well from two to three physically and we’ll try to get her black type.”
It has been a bumper week for Aidan O’Brien and he produced the ultra-smart Napa Valley (11/8f) to win the Leopardstown Maiden for three-year-old colts and geldings. Although a half-brother to former champion two-year-old filly Tiggy Wiggy, the son of Galileo did not appear as a juvenile but clearly knew his job in the, bouncing out of the stalls and scooting clear off the front when asked to do so by Seamie Heffernan for a decisive win, with Aztec Parade running a big race three and a quarter lengths back.
That was a 14th winner for Ballydoyle since last Sunday’s Newmarket fixture, a tally that includes two 1000 Guineas heroines Love and Peaceful.
Dollar Value (18/1) was tremendously gutsy to record victory in the Holden Plant Rental Handicap under Niall McCullagh. The five-year-old made all in the 12-furlong contest and though Sicario threw everything at him, the Tom McCourt-trained grey kept pulling out more and concluded a half-length winner.
Moll (9/4f) was another winning favourite, obliging on her handicap debut and first appearance for trainer Paddy Twomey in the Leopardstown Handicap for three-year-olds. Billy Lee steered the Camelot filly down the outside to lead at the furlong marker and she quickly established a sufficient gap to ensure that she was still a half length clear from the fast-finishing Marchons Ensemble at the lollipop.
Lee completed a double in the lucky last as Confidence High (11/8f) rewarded the astute placing of trainer Andy Oliver to land his second prize in five days at the Foxrock venue in the seven-furlong Leopardstown Handicap.