Stack hits the ground running
Racing:Tommy Stack served notice of his early-season potency with a double at the Curragh. The Co Tipperary handler rattled off a four-timer at this meeting 12 months ago, and again enjoyed another rich harvest on the first day of the Irish Flat campaign.
Lolly For Dolly spearheaded the Stack brace by scooping the Group Three Lodge Park Stud EBF Park Express Stakes. The four-year-old filly, sporting first-time blinkers, revelled in the testing conditions to handsomely repel Aidan O’Brien’s Gemstone by two lengths.
Although she looked a shade keen early on, Wayne Lordan’s partner picked up nicely inside the final furlong to win going away as the 5-2 joint-favourite. The pacemaking Banimpire stayed on for third, another neck adrift of the winner.
Fozzy Stack, assistant trainer and son of the victorious handler, said: “She did it well and travelled better in the blinkers. We decided to put blinkers on as it was a good prize and she tends to hit a flat spot in her races.
“We’ll go for the Gladness Stakes next. She didn’t quite get the mile and a quarter in the Pretty Polly on her final start last season.”
Stack’s Blue Dahlia (9-2) won on this card 12 months ago and struck again in the Newbridge & Ocala Twinning Handicap. Despite racing from 5lb out of the handicap, the four-year-old filly hacked up under 10lb claimer Shane Gray, and was value for a good deal more than her two-length winning margin.
It was also a big day for 16-year-old Gray, who was securing his first winner.
Stack jnr added: “She’s a tough, consistent filly and the ground doesn’t seem to bother her.”
Drombeg Dawn (25-1) later outgunned Jim Bolger’s Toraidhe in an exciting renewal of the www.thetote.com Irish Lincolnshire. Both horses were placed handily throughout, but the Ben Curtis-ridden mare seized the day by a short head.
British raider Kyllachy Star, trained by Richard Fahey, ran a nice race in third, another neck away from the Andrew McNamara-trained winner.
McNamara said: “I won this race 25 years ago with Colonel James, although he won a lot easier than this filly today. We’ll step her up in trip, perhaps to 10 furlongs, and she’ll go on quick ground.
“She was working well at home and is a great filly as her work never varies. I was tempted to go over hurdles with her but might have to have a rethink now. She loves the Curragh but was beaten four times here by less than a length.”
Despite having lost out with Gemstone, O’Brien still made a brisk start to the campaign when Sing Softly (8-1) claimed the Big Bad Bob Maiden. Seamie Heffernan always had his mount well placed on the stands side, and convincingly fended off the challenge of 5-2 favourite Rose Bonheur by two lengths.
O’Brien said: “She had a nice run last year and was due to run again at Dundalk towards the end of the season but didn’t make it. She’s a grand filly and will stay a bit further. We’ll step her up now.”
Tough As Nails lost the opening race in the stewards’ room when Whip Rule was announced the winner of the Tally Ho EBF Maiden at the Curragh. The former, trained by Michael Mulvany, endeavoured to make all of the running under Gary Carroll, but drifted across the track inside the 500 yards.
He was adjudged to have interfered with Bolger’s Whip Rule, who was always close to the speed in the hands of Kevin Manning and officially lost by a head. The placings were subsequently reversed following a lengthy inquiry.
Fahey’s Lost City, the 8-11 favourite, refused to settle from the outset under Paul Hanagan and finished last of the five previously unraced juveniles.
Carroll later gained redemption when Mick Halford’s Defining Year (7-1) pocketed the Gabriel Curran Memorial Madrid Handicap.