Thundering Nights helps Joseph O’Brien end Derby weekend on a high

Trainer gets the better of his father to claim Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh

Thundering Nights ridden by jockey Shane Crosse (right) wins the Alwasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes from Ryan Moore on Santa Barbara at the Curragh. Photograph:  Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA Wire

Thundering Nights ridden by jockey Shane Crosse (right) wins the Alwasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes from Ryan Moore on Santa Barbara at the Curragh. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA Wire

 

Joseph O’Brien got the better of his father, Aidan, at the Curragh on Sunday where Thundering Nights emerged best in the Group One feature. The Shane Crosse ridden 16-5 shot overcame the much-hyped Santa Barbara by a neck in the Alwasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes.

Earlier, O’Brien Jnr again edged out another Ballydoyle runner as the two-year-old Velocidad maintained her unbeaten record over Yet in the Group Two Airlie Stud Stakes. It brought the three-day ‘Derby Festival’ to a positive conclusion for Joseph O’Brien who hadn’t a runner in Saturday’s Classic and endured a number of frustrating near-misses in subordinate events.

An unlucky defeat in the opening maiden on Sunday looked like continuing that unfortunate trend but ultimately he bounced back with a vengeance. Thundering Nights had been edged out in a Belmont Grade Two in New York just 23 days previously and enjoyed a less than conventional preparation.

There was no evidence of that trans-Atlantic trip having left a mark though as Thundering Nights went past the favourite Cayenne Pepper early in the straight and showed an admirable attitude to repel Santa Barbara’s late lunge.

“In America she would have won in another stride. The tight track caught her out a little bit as it was her first time around the bends over there,” said O’Brien. “ She had to spend a week after the race over there so she’s only been back a couple of weeks.

“She trained there for a week, then shipped straight back and came straight here. She has a great constitution,” O’Brien said.

“She has options back in America, like the Beverly D, and she also has the likes of the Nassau and Matron Stakes. She’s a Group One winner now so she’s a very exciting broodmare prospect no matter what happens,” Thundering Night’s trainer added.

It was a second career Group One for Crosse, whose reaction to winning indicated relief after an otherwise frustrating weekend.

“Shane deserved that because over the last couple of days a few things didn’t go well for him.

“That’s the way it goes in racing and you just have to remain confident and keep doing what you are doing. That’s what he’s done and he was rewarded,” Joseph O’Brien commented.

O’Brien Snr got something back in the following Group Two Curragh Cup when Amhran Na Bhfiann made all under Colin Keane to hold off his son’s representative, Pondus.

Wordsworth in third did best of Aidan O’Brien’s five Derby runners and Amhran Na Bhfiann was one of just two winners for the champion trainer over the three days.

Biggest disappointment of all was the Derby favourite High Definition who beat only one home under Ryan Moore behind Hurricane Lane on Saturday.

“Ryan’s horse clipped heels, and Ryan said he lost his rhythm. He might have got a little fright and Ryan said he was leaning left,” O’Brien summed up on Sunday. “We’re probably going to give him a little break and have him back in the autumn.”

Elsewhere on the card the topweight Urban Beat put up a superb performance to land the Rockingham Handicap. The class horse of the race was one of just three that came up the stands rail in the €100,000 sprint and Ben Coen’s mount ultimately won with authority by two lengths.

“He jumped, pinged the gates, travelled with me and quickened up from two down,” said Coen. “ He got a bit lonely in the last 50 yards but that’s expected as it’s a lonely place when you are in front that long. He had to be hardy and he was.”

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