Vastonea helps Kevin Prendergast triumph in the Topaz yet again

Gary Halpin claims the big victory at Galway on day two

Vastonea bounced back to his best to record a second victory the Topaz Mile Handicap, the feature event on day two of the Galway Festival.

Kevin Prendergast's charge won the €115,000 event in 2012 but had to settle for third behind Brendan Bracken when defending his title last year.

Sent off a 12 to 1 chance this time around, 7lb-claimer Gary Halpin produced the grey with a perfectly-timed run to hit the front inside the final furlong.

Piri Wango had kicked for home on the turn but he had no answer to Vastonea’s challenge, going down by three-quarters of a length with British raider Baraweez claiming third after trying to come between horses.


“Gary gave him a good ride, he didn’t get into any trouble and I’m delighted,” said Prendergast.

“This has been a very lucky race for me and it’s our sixth win. The first time I won it, I beat one of my Dad’s that was odds-on favourite which was very nice on the day.

“The handicapper gave us a chance today, running off the mark he won off here two years and he won three-parts of a length with a 7lb-claimer on board, so without the claimer we wouldn’t have won. We might come back here again next year.”

The 20-year-old Halpin was notching the biggest win of his fledgling career and said: “He knows his way around here better than I do. He’s as genuine as they come and it’s great to win for the boss.

“I was flat out the whole way after jumping out the gate, they went good and hard early so I was flat out on my head. I was never happy until I went down into the dip and as soon as I did, he grabbed hold of the bit and he took me from there all the way up the straight.

“He loves battling and he put his head down and galloped all the way to the line.

“We get up early and ride yearlings in the winter and these are the days when it pays off.”

Prendergast also fielded 5 to 1 favourite Maskoon in the race but he finished down the field with the trainer feeling conditions were slightly against him.

David Wachman's Legatissimo (12-1) impressed when swooping late in the Topaz European Breeders Fund Fillies Maiden to win by half a length for jockey Wayne Lordan.

Wachman said: “She’s a nice filly. We liked her going to Leopardstown, but she just seemed to empty. She’s a big, big filly. Her dam’s (Yummy Mummy) a sister to Fame And Glory.

“We said we would ride her behind today to see what happens. We rode her handy the first day and it didn’t suit, so we did the opposite today.

“He (Wayne Lordan) needed all the luck, but he won snugly in the end. She’s a big filly and she’s really for next year so we’ll go steady with her.”

Owner JP McManus got an early double on the board as Shield and Jacksonslady landed the opening couple of events.

Shield was sent off the 15 to 8 favourite for the Topaz Novice Hurdle and stayed on well up the hill to beat Queen Alphabet by a length in the hands of Robbie Power.

Winning trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “You would have to be delighted with him. Robbie gave him a great ride. JP picked the race for him. He’s a good consistent horse. He definitely stays further and he loves that fast ground.

“He jumps great now. Robbie said he was a bit lazy, but he got a great run through and did a great job and got a peach of a ride.

“He’ll go jumping fences. He has already been entered in a few novice chases.”

Last year's Galway Plate third Jacksonslady (3to 1) was then on the mark under Barry Geraghty in the Latin Quarter Chase.

Philip Dempsey’s charge had to dig deep after the last, with Jacksonslady reeling in outsider Butney Rock before repelling the late thrust of Cailin Annamh by a head.

Geraghty said: “She battled well and jumped nicely throughout the race. I didn’t want to get there too soon. It was a good race. She ran a good race in the Plate last year. She deserved a good pot.

“I’m delighted for Philip and JP. It is Philip’s first horse for JP. I had a nice run round.”

Dempsey added: “She’s tough and she loves a battle. She battled the whole way, but I felt we were mugged on the line. Barry was brilliant on her. He sat in the dip when others might have gone wide and he knows her well.

“She didn’t get her ground last year and conditions suited in this race. We were initially aiming her at the Plate. She’s second reserve for that tomorrow. We’ll see how she is, she’s a tough mare.

“She’s in again at the end of the week in a two mile one handicap. She has plenty of pace. She was just touched off a couple of times on the flat.”

Dermot Weld had one winner on the opening day and he doubled that tally with Hidden Universe in the Handicap.

Unplaced in the Galway Hurdle back in 2011, Hidden Universe was sent off the 9 to 4 favourite to make belated amends in this two-mile event and he duly held off the late thrust of Foot Soldier by for jockey Pat Smullen.

Hidden Universe spent well over a year on the sidelines and while he hold entries later in the week, Weld is not keen to push for a quickfire double.

The trainer, who was celebrating his 66th birthday, said: “He got an excellent ride from Pat Smullen. He’s had a lot of leg problems and has been a very hard horse to keep sound. It has been an uphill battle to keep him sound.

“My concern was with the ground drying up, would it get too fast for him as he has been very effective on soft ground.

“He has tremendous guts and courage so he was suited to the track well. He’s in later in the week in a handicap hurdle, but I would doubt he would run after having that run on fast ground. He’s a horse for the Cesarewitch or something like that.”

Weld later recorded his first double of the week when Antique Platinum survived a stewards' inquiry in the European Breeders Fund Maiden.

Sent off the 2 to 5 favourite having shaped with promise on her debut at Naas when fourth, Weld wasted no time in reaching for a first-time visor.

Smullen made his move around the outside on the home bend but had his stick in his left hand, and his mount edged into Henson, who was the meat in the sandwich, but the hardest done by was Ducky Mallon on the rail.

By the time Smullen switched his whip he was in the clear and his mount pulled two lengths away from Henson.

The winning filly is a full sister to Designs On Rome, who was trained by Pat Flynn in Ireland before moving to Hong Kong and graduating to Group One honours.

Weld said: “That was a bit of excitement to end the evening! She ran a bit green when she hit the front and hung in but won by two lengths in the end.”