Harzand coasts to impressive win in Ballysax Stakes
Dermot Weld’s charge furthers his reputation with win in traditional Derby trial
Harzand ridden by Pat Smullen (second right) goes on to win The P. W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Harzand isn’t wasting time establishing his reputation as a potential top-notch performer and followed a well-worn path to future top-level glory by landing Leopardstown’s Group Three feature.
The Aga Khan-owned colt’s sire, Sea The Stars, hadn’t even appeared by this stage of his momentous three year old season in 2009, but Harzand built on his wide-margin Cork maiden victory at Cork last month to win the PW McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes in style.
His defeat of Idaho and two other Ballydoyle hopes in the traditional Derby trial provoked Derby quotes of as low as 16-1 although Dermot Weld already appears to be thinking even longer-term than Epsom in June.
“The best is yet to come and I think you’ll see gradual progress as the year goes on. He’s not the finished article yet and at a mile and a quarter he’s only getting going: he’s a proper mile and a half horse,” said the Curragh trainer.
“I’d worry about him on very firm ground but good ground is not a problem.”
Smullen conceded Harzand was all-out to go a strong early pace but that he was always confident of overhauling Idaho who had swept by him from the rear of the field on the turn-in.
Considering he’s a brother to Highland Reel, Idaho’s effort on officially heavy going looked commendable. He looked a likely winner early in the straight only to falter in the closing stages but still had his two stable companions, Beacon Rock and Cook Islands, well behind him.
Earlier another Ballydoyle colt, Black Sea, narrowly landed the 2,000 Guineas Trial in a thrilling finish under Ryan Moore to earn his own Derby quotes of as 25-1.
“Ryan said he’s a horse that will suit America in time. He’ll step up into a trial now going further,” said O’Brien.
Further proof that the Ballydoyle string are more forward than some previous seasons came when the 14-1 outsider of three O’Brien runners in the ten furlong maiden, Bhutan, made an impressive winning debut.
“He’s been sleeping at home obviously. I liked him as a two-year-old but as we got close to running him he was getting lazier and lazier. Obviously the trainer didn’t spot him!”joked O’Brien.
Bhutan noticeably lacks classic entries but his trainer intends to slot him into a classic trial somewhere and added: “He’s good looking, well bred and went out to the line well there.He could make a lot of progress from that.”
Bhutan had three lengths in hand of the apparent stable No.1 Housesofparliament who also ran well to confirm the stable’s good form.
Adrian Keatley’s string are in fine form too and the Curragh based trainer enjoyed a career-best success as the ex-Richard Hannon filly, Jet Setting, made all to land the 1,000 Guineas Trial.
Keatley, previously an assistant to Oliver McKiernan, and who worked in Australia for Chris Waller and John O’Shea, is in just his second full season with a licence and moved into a new yard just seven weeks ago.
The well-backed Jet Setting failed to win in four starts for Hannon but made it two out of three for Keatley by proving three lengths too good for Now Or Never in the Group Three heat. “That was her day in the sun,” said the Kildare native.
“The ground would want to be soft if we were thinking about the Guineas this side of the water, but we’ll have a very strong look at the German Guineas. It’s bound to be soft there, it usually is.”
North County Dublin trainer Damien English described Tribal Path as a “revelation” after the bottom weight landed the seven furlong handicap, his fourth success of the year so far while Tony Martin’s Laganore justified market support by half a length in Sunday’s finale at Leopardstown.