Sean Levey leads home Hannon one-two on ‘exceptional’ Rosallion in Irish 2,000 Guineas

Classic success tops hat-trick of cross-channel trained winners at the Curragh

The favourite Rosallion led home a Richard Hannon one-two in Saturday’s Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh that underlined a resurgence in racing fortunes for cross-channel interests on the flat.

Jockey Sean Levey on the 10-11 favourite and Hannon first-string overcame adversity to eventually overhaul his stable companion Haatem by a head, with Aidan O’Brien’s No 1 River Tiber forced to settle for third.

It was a milestone first top-flight success in Ireland for Levey almost 20 years after he began his riding career at the Curragh. Hannon emulated his father, Richard Snr, who landed the Irish 2,000 Guineas three times.

However, on the back of a winter where British jump racing once again was forced to play second fiddle to Ireland, the first Irish Classic of 2024 was also a timely shift of momentum.


It wasn’t just the Guineas as Rosallion’s success came on the back of another British one-two in the Group Two Greenlands Stakes, while Candleford preceded the big race by landing the Listed Orby Stakes.

Fallen Angel and Skellet are two cross-channel based contenders for Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas but Rosallion is assured his place in Classic history with success in the 103rd renewal of the colts highlight.

Although just a head was in it at the line, for much of the Guineas it looked like the son of Blue Point might have to settle for another runner-up effort like in the Newmarket equivalent earlier in the month.

A funereal early pace encouraged Rosallion’s instincts to run fast earlier than prudent and Levey was forced to take back. The colt did eventually settle but was left with plenty ground to make up as Haatem set sail from home from a perfect position on the pace.

Jamie Spencer could have been forgiven for thinking he had another Curragh Classic in the bag. But Rosallion showed commendable grit to go with his proven class and successfully bridged the gap in time.

Levey, who came to Ireland aged 11 from Swaziland, and began his career as an apprentice to Aidan O’Brien, became the first black jockey to win an Irish Classic, emulating the same accomplishment he achieved in England six years ago on Billesdon Brook in the 1,000 Guineas.

“I’ve great memories already at this track, but I’ve never come here with a good chance like him, and have it actually pay-off,” the 36-year-old rider said.

“My actual worry was Haatem would be a lot better horse on this track and he’d take all the beating. I wasn’t too far wrong. But my lad’s turn of foot got me out of trouble. He found loads and picked up and felt exceptional,” Levey added.

Hannon’s belief that Rosallion is the best through his yard since the 2010 Irish Guineas hero Canford Cliffs got vindicated in style.

Saturday’s one-two had been two and three behind Notable Speech in the English Guineas and he said: “Standing in the second and third places in the paddock at Newmarket was utterly galling, but this more than makes up for it. It’s the icing on the cake.

“Rosallion has always been a little bit special and we built him up quite a lot, so it’s lovely to see him win a Classic. Both horses ran the races of their lives. Rosallion will go to Ascot now and it’ll be a great race for everybody. Haatem’s day will come too.”

Hannon added: “Rosallion, I’m absolutely delighted with him, I couldn’t be happier. He took a bit of time to pick them up. He’s such a hyped horse and he’s not going to please everybody. He proved he got the trip today and that was the pleasing thing.

“We’ll go to the St James’s Palace Stakes and try our best to beat the horse that beat us last time. It will be hard.”

Just denied on Haatem, Spencer had earlier pulled off another waiting-race gem when Mitbaahy swept from last to first in the Greenlands. The 9-1 shot had three parts of a length in hand of compatriot Regional.

“The leaders got a length or two on me and I think he’s done well to run them down. He’s obviously an improving horse and you’d be looking forward to him for Ascot now,” Spencer said.

“There is a strong headwind, and everything was in his favour today. I thought he had a good chance today because he’d been running at Newmarket where it’s notoriously hard to come from behind, especially with all the ridges. Down into the dip he’s got unbalanced twice and has run good races.

“I felt when you’re running at a track where the ground meets you, he was always going to find his acceleration again,” he added.

Ryan Moore dominated from the front on Candleford in the Orby and had earlier got the nod in a very tight finish to the maiden won by newcomer Henri Matisse.

However, the odds-on Camille Pissarro came up a head short of Arizona Blaze in the Group Three Marble Hill.

Royal Ascot’s Coventry Stakes is next for the winner as trainer Adrian Murray continues to savour his remarkable career upswing since teaming up with assistant Robson Aguiar and AMO Racing.

“It’s dream stuff. I never could have imagined that this would happen to me.

“Robson asked me two and a half or three years ago if I would train for them. He said that we’re going to be training top-drawer stuff and I kind of took it with a pinch of salt. But one year has been better than the next,” Murray said.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column