Impressive Steps To Freedom in control at Dundalk
STEPS TO FREEDOM registered his first victory of the year with an impressive performance in the Boylesports.comHandicap at Dundalk yesterday. Jessica Harrington’s dual-purpose performer showed smart form over hurdles last winter, but was well beaten in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and subsequently at Fairyhouse.
He ran with more encouragement when third behind Fame And Glory back on the level in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan and he was the 15 to 8 favourite for this two-mile handicap.
Sensibly settled towards the rear by Fran Berry as outsider Cloone Rocket set a ferocious pace, Steps To Freedom made gradual headway through the field. He quickened up to lead heading towards the furlong marker and soon put the race to bed, passing the post with four and a half lengths in hand over Night Glimmer. Rattan and Norah Starr filled the places.
Harrington said: “I’m absolutely delighted and to do that under 10st 3lb is a good performance. I’ve been stymied with the wet summer, with all my horses in fact.
“He settled brilliantly. He is entered in the Challenge Stakes at Leopardstown next Thursday and also in the Ebor at York and the Irish St Leger so he has plenty of options.
“We’ll wait and see where the ground is good. He’s a very good Flat stayer and in the autumn will go back over hurdles and hopefully we’ll have a fine spring next year.”
Meanwhile, Golden Lilac is viewed by many as something of a certainty for the Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes, but John Oxx’s Alanza is taken to spoil her party at Newmarket today as well as her compatriot, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Maybe.
Having won over 10 furlongs last year and an extended nine on her return to action when beating Cirrus Des Aigles, there is a small chance Golden Lilac could be caught for speed.
There is no doubt she is the classiest horse in the race, but she is priced up accordingly whereas Oxx’s Alanza appears to have gone under the radar. She won three on the bounce last season and that the Aga Khan left her in training suggests Oxx believes he can get a big win out of her and after a pipe-opener behind Emulous, she was a comfortable winner of a Group Three last time.