Colin Keane targets quickfire Group One double at Newmarket

Sacred Bridge and Dr Zempf run in back-to-back races for trainer Ger Lyons

Colin Keane will try to bounce back from the disappointment of losing out on the Arc favourite Tarnawa in Paris next weekend with a Group One double at Newmarket on Saturday.

Already assured of a third jockeys title, and with Joseph O'Brien's 2013 record of 126 winners in sight, the decision by Tarnawa's owner, the Aga Khan, to opt for Christophe Soumillon in the Arc has been a rare reverse for Keane this season.

However, within just 35 minutes on the Rowley Mile the 27-year-old rider could double his top-flight haul for 2021 so far.

Sacred Bridge is favourite to extend her unbeaten record in the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes and Keane's ally Ger Lyons also supplies the highly fancied Dr Zempf in the following Middle Park Stakes.


It is an anniversary of sorts for Lyons who had his first Group One success with Lightening Pearl in the 2011 Cheveley Park.

His status as one of Ireland’s top trainers has been cemented further this season by passing the 1,000 career winner mark last month as well as a memorable four-timer on day one of Champions Weekend.

What’s missing is a Group One but it might not be for long if Sacred Bridge continues her rapid improvement.

Owned by the big-race sponsors, the daughter of Bated Breath had three wins already under her belt before supplying Lyons with what he described as a “wow” performance at the Curragh last time.

“In the Round Tower I thought the way she did it in Group company was visually spectacular and it was fast ground which I think is the key,” the trainer said.

Sacred Bridge faces a dozen rivals on Saturday including Joseph O’Brien’s Velocidad, who will attempt to bounce back from a Prix Morny flop, and Ballydoyle’s Tenebrism.

She is the dark horse of the race having had her only start to date last March. In contrast the home pair of Sandrine and Zain Claudette are proven Group performers. So is Sacred Breath who still looks progressive.

Keane, whose pair of Group Ones already this season came on Broome and Helvic Dream, will have Soumillon in his sights in the Middle Park.

The Belgian keeps the ride on the Morny winner Perfect Power for Richard Fahey who is the bulwark of the home defence against a five-pronged Irish attack.

Fozzy Stack will try for a maiden Group One victory with Castle Star, as will Michael O’Callaghan through the supplemented Twilight Jet.

Aidan O’Brien is doubly-represented as he pursues a record-stretching seventh Middle Park although Dr Zempf’s runner-up performance in the Phoenix looks to make him the number one Irish hope.

The strength in depth of Lyons’s juvenile team keeps being underlined and Dr Zempf is already being looked at as a Classic prospect for 2022.

Managing to beat the precocious Perfect Power will emphasise such claims, and maybe allow Keane prove a point in the process.

At home Tuwaiq does the honours for Lyons in the Curragh’s Saturday feature, the Group Two Alan Smurfit Beresford Stakes.

Aidan O’Brien is chasing an 11th straight win in the famed two-year-old contest – and a 21st in all – with Luxembourg.

Like one of his rivals, Piz Badille, he is a Killarney maiden winner, although in what could turn into an all-O’Brien finish, Swan Bay could prove the solution given the evidence of his wide-margin Galway success.

The Curragh also sees action on Sunday where Search For A Song will try to bounce back from her Irish Leger disappointment in the two-mile Loughbrown Stakes.

Search For A Song failed to complete a Leger hat-trick a fortnight ago but it was her first start in four months. The Doncaster Leger third, The Mediterranean, gets 7lbs from the mare which could prove decisive.

In other news the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has said pre-race testing of runners, which started last week, has gone smoothly to date.

Lasts week’s Flat fixture at Punchestown was the first meeting where tests for ‘milk-shaking’ were carried out.

The procedure whereby sodium bicarbonate and liquid is given hours before a race has long been prohibited as it is believed to act as a neutraliser of lactic acid during exertion.

Prolonged discussions eventually led to agreement between the IHRB and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association about random testing being carried out on all runners in a particular race.

Horses were tested in three races at Punchestown while all runners in Wednesday’s Guinness Kerry National had samples taken beforehand. The IHRB reported nothing untoward.

“It’s a very straightforward and swift process, both for those connected to the horse and from our point of view as well: we just bring a sample back to the small machine to have it tested there and then,” said an IHRB spokesman on Friday.

“It’s a bit like unannounced inspections. It’s done on a random basis and it will help cover a wide selection of the racing population,” he added.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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