Northern Rocked finally delivers at Galway Festival

Third-time lucky for Dermot Weld’s horse at Ballybrit, Walsh wins on Call Me Bubbles

Northern Rocked ridden by Leigh Roche (left) racing clear to win the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund ‘ Ahonoora’ handicap of €100,000  during day six of the 2013 Galway Summer Festival. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Northern Rocked ridden by Leigh Roche (left) racing clear to win the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund ‘ Ahonoora’ handicap of €100,000 during day six of the 2013 Galway Summer Festival. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Sat, Aug 3, 2013, 18:22

It was third time lucky for Northern Rocked in the feature Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Ahonoora’ Handicap at Galway Festival as he came good in a race he had been fourth in for the last two years.

Leigh Roche always had the seven-year-old (6-1) close to the pace and went on from the tiring front-runner An Saighdiur deep inside the final furlong.

Last year’s winner Pintura charged late in an attempt to land the race again for the Kevin Ryan team but could not quite get there and finished half a length in arrears, with the winner’s stablemate Stuccodor, sent off the favourite, taking third.

“Today was the day,” Weld said. “It’s just a pity his owner Mr Olivero is not here. He’s from Italy and he’s had horses with me for about 25 years.

“Because of the change of days (the race was originally scheduled to be run on Sunday) he wasn’t able to change his travel plans.

“He (Northern Rocked) ran well in this race two years ago when Rock Critic won. He didn’t get a clear run. Soft ground is the key to him. He’s lost a little bit of his pace but he battled on well and handled this track really well. Both my horses ran really good races.”

Ruby Walsh shone in the saddle as Call Me Bubbles got up to beat Shamiran in the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle, the only jumps race on the card.

Only fifth jumping the last, Walsh got a great tune out of the Willie Mullins-trained 7-2 favourite, switching his whip and galvanising the four-year-old to get the better of Shamiran by half a length, winning a shade cosily in the end.

“That was a vintage ride from Ruby,” Mullins said. “Things didn’t go according to plan and I’d say in the end we were on Plan D or Plan E. The plan was to be in the first six or seven, but in the end he seemed to appreciate coming from behind when he finally got into a rhythm.

“Obviously he likes a nice dig in the ground and he’ll continue to mix it in staying handicaps on the Flat and over hurdles.”

Aidan O’Brien’s Iniesta battled all the way to the line to claim the Ladbrokes Loyalty Card European Breeders Fund Maiden at Ballybrit.

Joseph O’Brien’s mount (15-8) was soon disputing matters with Keyword, and made a positive move from the three-furlong pole, gaining a couple of valuable lengths on the field.

Odds-on favourite Leafcutter gave chase but despite Dermot Weld’s charge flattering a furlong out Iniesta found another gear and pulled away to score by two lengths.

The winning rider said: “He’s tough and he stays well, although I’m not sure if he’s 100 per cent happy on the ground. It’s dead ground and testing.”

O’Brien junior later doubled up as the John Joseph Murphy-trained Capitol Hill (6-1) got his just reward after a busy spell in the Get Lucky With Ladbrokes Handicap, and made it a treble through his father’s Exotic (9-2) Ladbrokes Red Day For JEF EBF Fillies Maiden Murphy’s three-year-old was fourth at Wexford last weekend and had not been beaten far when third here on Wednesday.

Focussed (6-1) hung on to give Brendan Duke a notable success in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Nursery Handicap.

Running in the famous colours of Jackie Bolger and ridden by Kevin Manning, the Intense Focus colt was sporting first-time blinkers and responded well when asked for his effort on entering the straight. It proved hard work in the final 100 yards but Manning had kept enough in the tank to prevail by half a length from Tom Dooley.

The winner started his career with Jim Bolger, with whom Duke has a long-standing relationship and was a former assistant.

“It’s an enormous thrill to train a winner for them,” Duke said. “I first met Jim in 1978 and he has been so good to me, any time I need some help I just pick up the phone. This is a great day for me, it’s like winning the Derby.

“I think this horse is pretty decent. I’ve always loved the sire, he was tough and hardy and won the Dewhurst in a good time. I rang him on Thursday to say I was thinking of running here and he replied ‘run him if he’ll win’.”

“He might run again at Sligo on Wednesday as he’s a horse that’s not afraid of hard work.”

It was a first winner for Duke since Mister Benedictine at Kilbeggan in June 2012. He has had 43 runners in that period.