Whelan signs off with double and apprentice title

Mon, Nov 5, 2012, 00:00

RACING: Jockey Ronan Whelan celebrated landing Ireland’s apprentice riders’ title with a double – including a first ever Listed victory on Lady Wingshot – at the 2012 flat season finale in Leopardstown yesterday.

Although Flat race action will continue on Dundalk’s all-weather surface through the winter, there was a definite end-of-term atmosphere as Whelan proved the headline performer.

The 19-year-old from Monasterevin ended the campaign with 31 winners and put in an especially polished performance on Lady Wingshot who was four lengths too good for everything in the Knockaire Stakes.

“Things have gone from strength to strength all year and the boss has given me some good rides so it’s great to get my first Listed winner here,” Whelan said. “I just hope it continues next year.”

Aidan and Joseph O’Brien were in America for the Breeders’ Cup but ended the season as champion trainer and jockey respectively, the first time a father and son have been crowned since 1916.

O’Brien Snr has been top trainer every year since 1998 and wound up with 95 winners in Ireland worth over €3.5 million in prize-money, over double his nearest rival, Dermot Weld. But it was a first senior riding title for his 19-year-old son who ended with 93 winners worth almost €2.7 million, five clear of Pat Smullen.

Derrick Smith, part of the Coolmore Stud ownership syndicate, ended the season as champion owner with over €1.1 million in prize-money, mostly through the Derby hero Camelot who carried his colours.

Even at the end of this season, though, there were already eyes turned towards the 2013 Classics yesterday as Sugar Boy put in a wide-margin victory in the Listed Eyrefield Stakes and Foundry made a winning debut in the seven-furlong maiden.

The son of Galileo earned a 20 to 1 Stan James quote for next year’s Derby and Foundry’s jockey, Séamus Heffernan, reported: “You couldn’t ask him to be anymore impressive. It’s a backend maiden – some of them can very good, and some can be very bad. I hope he’s one of the better ones.”

There were 33 to 1 Derby quotes floating about after Sugar Boy rewarded an enterprisingly wide Chris Hayes ride by landing an Eyrefield Stakes that in the past has been won by subsequent Classic winners, Yesterday and Vinnie Roe.

“He’s as tough as nails and a relentless galloper. He’s hard to get by and everything we’ve thrown at him he’s just kept improving,” said trainer Patrick Prendergast. “He’s in the Derby and will run in a trial. He has been on the market but no one came in for him and the price has gone up now!”

No trainer in Europe has a stronger Classic hand for 2013 than Jim Bolger and with Dawn Approach, Loch Garman and Co waiting to be unleashed, the former champion waved goodbye to 2012’s Irish turf season with a 53 to 1 treble.

Bunairgead scored under Whelan in a fillies maiden that saw Rip Van Winkle’s sister, A Star Is Born, finish lame while Rory Clearly was on board Miracle Cure in the 10-furlong handicap.

Johnny Murtagh made it 53 winners aboard the Birdcatcher runner-up Ballyorban who edged out Newberry Hill in the Nursery, while apprentice Ian Brennan shone in the very last race, the November Handicap aboard Face Value.

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