Kevin Prendergast-trained Penny Pepper surprises at Curragh

Mare in foal to Dragon Pulse recovers from poor start to beat 9-4 favourite Only Mine

Trainer Kevin Prendergast: Penny Pepper now looks set to retire from the track on a high. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kevin Prendergast will be 85 next month and has been training for well over a half a century but Penny Pepper's 16-1 success in Sunday's Group 3 Curragh feature still had him shaking his head at racing's capacity to surprise, declaring "wonders will never cease."

The mare blew the start in the Group 3 TRM Ballyogan Stakes but patience was a virtue even over six furlongs on the very testing ground conditions and Chris Hayes brought the winner through late to head the 9-4 favourite Only Mine with Alphabet another head back in third.

The theory that in-foal mares can up their game got another boost here as Penny Pepper now looks set to retire from the track on a high with invaluable winning black type to her name.

“She’s in foal to Dragon Pulse and that was probably a big help. In all honesty I didn’t think she’d win although Hayes was very sweet on her. She’s done her job now,” said Prendergast. “She loved the ground – what she wants are oars.”


Willie Mullins was out of luck in Paris where Shaneshill could finish only third in the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil and fortune deserted him too at the Curragh.

His newcomer High Havan beat another debutant, Mr Everest, by a head in the concluding maiden but lost the race in the stewards room after bumping her 10-1 rival inside the final 100 yards.

“He’s a nice staying horse and probably deserved to get it on the day,” said the winner’s trainer, Joseph O’Brien.

The Nicky Henderson trained L'Ami Serge reversed last month's course form with Shaneshill to win under Wexford born jockey Daryl Jacob who brought the winner through from last to first.

“That was one of the best rides you’ll ever see because we had no idea he’d stay,” Henderson said. “We put a hood on him and a different bit and Daryl had to drop him out. It was a brilliant ride.”

Stable companion

Mullins was again out of luck in the French version of the Triumph Hurdle as Bapaume failed to overhaul the local runner Prince Ali. Bapaume’s stable companion Dandy Mag was third.

Ruby Walsh will be in Roscommon on Monday evening for two novice chase rides including Townshend who has to concede a massive 23lbs to the four year old Landofhopeandglory.

Even if Joseph O’Brien’s runner is making his debut over fences conceding all the allowances to a horse capable of finishing runner up to Bapaume at Punchestown in a Grade One looks a tall order for the field.

Robbie Power returns to action after almost a month out with fractured ribs in the concluding Beginners Chase. Walsh is on Sure Reef here but three miles looks just what the experienced Gwencily Berbas needs.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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