O'Brien remains on course

 

Aidan O'Brien may have been out of luck with Stravinsky in the Saudi Arabian Airlines Dewhurst Stakes but the master of Ballydoyle kept up his relentless surge towards a second successive flat trainer's championship when completing a pattern race double at the Curragh on Saturday with Festival Hall and Burden of Proof.

Festival Hall, whose two previous placed outings included a highly creditable debut effort behind Mus-If here in the National Stakes, opened his account under Jamie Spencer in the Group 3 Juddmonte Beresford Stakes.

Spencer, having his first ride for O'Brien and partnering his 28th winner of the season, gave the Sadler's Wells colt a strong drive, coming from virtually last to first inside the final quarter mile to touch off Port Bayou in the final strides.

Burden Of Proof, who was purchased recently from the Charles O'Brien stable to be used as a lead horse on the gallops, initiated the brace earlier in the afternoon in the Waterford Testimonial Stakes. The son of Fairy King has proved a grand servant for connections in Group class over the last five seasons, and he was always in control on this switch back to Listed company.

Seamus Heffernan had the sixyear-old up with the pace throughout, and he kept on well from the furlong pole to beat Tinker Amelia by a length.

The £50,000 Blandford Stakes certainly appeared below the normal Group 2 standard but it did provide punters with a tremendous finish as Lisieux Rose edged out Golden Rule in a titanic final furlong tussle.

"Pat [Shanahan] gave her a terrific ride," said winning trainer Dermot Weld afterwards. "She is a lovely big filly, and we will have a lot of fun with her next year," he added.

Declan McDonogh, who finished tied with Danny Grant on four winners, was confirmed the winner of the Derrinstown Stud Apprentice Series on count-back of placings after the season long series wound up on Saturday.

The Meath rider was involved in another terrific finish here, with his mount Fearsome Factor coming home best only to be denied by three short-heads behind the well-backed Bhutan.