Romanised gatecrashes the party to claim 2,000 Guineas

Ken Condon’s 25-1 shot denies Aidan O’Brien at the Curragh

The 25-1 shot Romanised gatecrashed the Classic scene in style on Saturday when landing the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh for local trainer Ken Condon.

Ridden by Shane ‘Dusty’ Foley, Romanised upset some of racing’s superpowers by pouncing off a frantic gallop to lead home three Aidan O’Brien trained rivals.

The Ballydoyle trio were led by the 100-30 second favourite US Navy Flag who dominated the pace from the start. By halfway he had the disappointing favourite Elqaram in trouble. However, he was powerless to repel Romanised’s final challenge.

It was a sweet moment for Foley who secured the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 2016 on board Jet Setting but whose career took a blow last year when losing his job as No 1 rider to Michael Halford.


However, he has ridden regularly for Condon in recent years including on the high-class middle-distance performer Success Days, who bids for a maiden Group One in Sunday’s Tatersalls Gold Cup.

And Foley wasn’t alone in pointing to Condon’s achievement in securing a first Classic, a first Group One, and even a first winner of the season, as making the victory extra sweet.

The popular Condon, originally from Ballyhea in Co Cork, and who has been training on the Curragh since 2002, has just 30 horses in his care.

However, having spent five years as an assistant to John Oxx prior to striking out on his own – including working with Oxx stars such as the Derby and Arc hero Sinndar – his shot at Classic glory with an outsider was never going to be just hit and hope.

Romanised could boast smart juvenile form and although only sixth to Imagining in the Tetrarch Stakes on his return to action, Condon always thought he had the potential to run a big race.

The colt broke slowly but that proved a blessing in disguise off a very fast pace and in the final 100 metres he was well on top, winning by over two lengths.

It was a hugely popular victory that proved another Classic success for connections not counted among flat racing’s superpowers. Earlier this month the Newmarket 1,000 Guineas fell to the 66-1 shot Billesdon Brook.

“We’ve always thought a lot of him and to win a Classic on our doorstep is a dream come true,” Condon said.

“It’s a very select club [Classic-winning trainers] a very rare club, and to actually step into that club feels like you are walking through special doors.

“Romanised wasn’t there physically as a two-year-old and it wasn’t happening for him earlier in the spring. But he liked the drying ground and he worked really well on Tuesday.

“We knew we were a long shot coming in here but I felt he was going to run a big race. He’s always shown talent and he just seems to have come to himself in the last few weeks.

“I’m in a bit of shock and it will be a few days before it sinks in. It’s just amazing to win a Classic. It’s all I wanted to do when I entered racing.

“I knew I was never going to be training a huge amount of winners but we aimed to have a few nice horses through our hands.

“I thought he’d run well but to win is magic. I’m delighted for everyone involved, the lads in the yard, we’re only a small team. He’s a horse that we’ve always had quite a bit of faith in.

“We just train 30 and we are lucky enough to have a few stakes performers among them.

“There are a lot of guys like me. The country is full of very good horsemen and very good riders and we’re all looking to get our hands on a good horse and show what you can do.”

Romanised has been installed a 10-1 shot to follow up in next month’s St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

It was a second Classic for Foley who was especially happy to win for Condon. “Ken had stood by me as an apprentice and I’m delighted to ride a Classic winner for him.

“These are the winners you want to have. I’ve won the fillies’ Guineas already but to have it with Ken is great. He’s such a good trainer and has shown his attributes with this horse.”

The Guineas outcome proved a rare reverse on the day for Aidan O’Brien who’d earlier won with the two-year-old fillies Just Wonderful and Fairyland, while Australian import Merchant Navy won the Greenlands Stakes on his first European start.

Merchant Navy was too good for his stable companion Spirit Of Valor and is likely to be pointed next at Royal Ascot’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

“We felt he was just ready to come and the whole reason for running him was to see before we went to Ascot,” O’Brien said.

“We felt that he was at a racecourse gallop stage. The lads in Australia said he was a very good horse, so we just took it totally on trust. He did five little canters, that’s all he did.

“Ryan was very happy with him. The plan is to go to Ascot for the six-furlong race [Diamond Jubilee Stakes] and I think he has to go after that.

“I think he’s only here for Ascot and then gone after that, whatever [stallion] commitments he has.”

I thought there would be a lot of improvement in him. I was just hoping for a nice run today, that’s all, so it’s all a plus.”

Fairyland led home a Ballydoyle 1-2-3 in the Marble Hill Stakes but there was another surprise in the Group Two Lanwades Stud Stakes as the English trained 10-1 shot Opal Tiara proved too good for the favourite Hydrangea.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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