Ambivalent a first Irish winner for Varian at the Curragh

Aidan O’Brien’s daughter Sarah claims first victory on board Beach of Falesa


Ambivalent gave Newmarket trainer Roger Varian his first Group One success in Ireland with a gritty performance in the Oxigen Environment Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh.

The four-year-old filly made most of the running in the hands of Johnny Murtagh and fended off all-comers to land the spoils.

After seeing off the challenge of the always-prominent Harasiya, Ambivalent (10-1) kept on grimly to defeat the Aidan O’Brien-trained Was by half a length.

“It was the plan (to make the running). We’ve held her up in the past,” said Varian. “She ran very well in the Middleton at York (second to Dalkala) but they didn’t go very quick, and we held her up at Haydock and they didn’t go quick there either and she was keen.

“I said to Johnny she stays well so there was nothing to lose sending her forward and being positive. I was sure she’d keep going, she’s very tough. That’s my first Group One in Ireland and I love coming here. It was a brilliant ride from Johnny, he was very good.”

Murtagh said: “Roger said she was hard and tough and to let her use her stride. He said they might go slow so from drawn one let her use her stride. The wind was behind which probably helped her.

“She was game in the end as they all lined up to have a go at her, but she dug deep.”

O’Brien may have had to settle for second place in the feature race but he enjoyed a treble with Bye Bye Birdie, Beach Of Falesa and Ernest Hemingway.

The success of Beach Of Falesa in the Ladies Derby was a real family affair as the 8-1 shot is owned by his wife Anne-Marie and was giving their daughter Sarah a first winner.

The young amateur brought the top-weight with a rattling run on the outside to storm past Eighteen Summers to win by two lengths.

A proud father said: “That’s great, I’m delighted — that’s a special one. It was a great chance for her to come here so it’s a massive day. It’s a special weekend, unbelievable.”

The young jockey said: “She had plenty up her sleeve turning in, she was still going fairly well. I was happy — she doesn’t like to get to the front too early so it suited me well. I’ll keep riding away and hopefully I might go to college next year.”

O’Brien’s second string Ernest Hemingway changed the script with an emphatic victory in the At The Races Curragh Cup, earning a 14-1 quote from Paddy Power for next year’s Ascot Gold Cup.

The 12-1 shot, ridden by Séamie Heffernan, came from way back to slam Royal Diamond by five lengths with O’Brien’s other runner El Salvador only fourth.

“He’s a very good mover and probably loved that ground,” O’Brien said. “He showed good acceleration today and I’m delighted with him. He’s a beautiful horse — a big imposing type.”

O’Brien’ son Joseph was on board as Bye Bye Birdie (9-2) made all in the Grangecon Stud Stakes. Having her third run in a two-week period and last seen finishing 12th in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Oasis Dream filly was sporting a first-time visor and never saw another rival in the six-furlong Group Three event.

“She had the headgear on today as Joseph thought she was keeping plenty to herself,” said the trainer. “She has loads of ability.”

Australia, O’Brien’s highly-touted newcomer, was unlucky not to make a winning debut in the Barronstown Stud European Breeders Fund (C & G) Maiden. The even-money favourite lost several lengths at the start yet went down by only a neck to the Jim Bolger-trained Renaissance Art (10-1).

“We’re delighted with him. He came out of the stalls five minutes too late, that’s the only thing that went wrong,” said O’Brien snr. “We thought the world of him before and he could go anywhere now.”

Michael Halford enjoyed a double with Dabadiyan (5-2 favourite) in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Ragusa” Handicap and Eastern Rules in the O’Brien Wines Handicap, ridden by Declan McDonogh and Shane Foley respectively.

Rory Cleary rode his first winner since suffering a bad fall at Leopardstown on June 13 when scoring on Ansgar (33-1) in the Irish Field Handicap for trainer Sabrina Harty.