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Curragh Sunday review and free video replays of the Irish Derby Festival card

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A review of the action from the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival card at the Curragh.


Matisse blunts Strikin Viking

Henri Matisse, the 8/1 outsider of the field, came from last to first to win the GAIN Railway Stakes at the Curragh.

Royal Ascot third Arizona Blaze, racing solo, helped to cut out the running in the Group 2 with The Strikin Viking, named after Erling Haaland, leading the remainder.

The Strikin Viking, who won his debut just 15 days ago, quickened from the front and appeared to have his rivals in trouble but he was flanked by two Aidan O’Brien trained runners and slowly but surely, Henri Matisse wore him down, going on to win by a half a length with the pair pulling over three lengths clear.

The winner was ridden by Wayne Lordan and was also having his second career start having made a winning debut in May.

“The six (furlongs) today we felt might be on the sharp side for him,” said Lordan, “but he finished off the race well and I think he won well at the line.

“We went a good gallop and I was able to just hang onto the back of them and from three out I started to squeeze and I thought the last half furlong was the best part of it.

“I hit the line well and thought he had a look when he got there. He’s by the right stallion (Wootton Bassett), they show pace but I think this fellow is going to stay as well so I think (this race is) a stepping stone for when he goes up in trip.”

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It was O’Brien’s first win in the race since Van Beethoven in 2018 and now puts him level with the legendary Vincent O’Brien on a record 14 Railway Stakes victories.

Henri Matisse was shortened to 10/1 from 20s for next year’s 2000 Guineas by both Paddy Power and Betfair in the aftermath, and the winner’s immediate future will involve a return to the Curragh and a step up in trip.

“We’re delighted with him. We thought he was a bit too babyish to go to Ascot and Wayne said he’s still babyish,” said O’Brien.

“He said he’ll love going up to seven and we might go up to seven next, we’ll see what’s there for the Phoenix Stakes. He’s a lovely horse, tries very hard and is very genuine. He has an unbelievable pedigree.”

He went on: “I’d say he could be (a National Stakes horse), that’s exactly what I’d say he is. That was a Group Two and if he was to go again you’d have to look at either the Futurity or the Phoenix. If he was staying at six it’s the Phoenix and if he’s going to seven it would be the Futurity on the way to the National.

“We haven’t leaned on the colts at all yet. Probably from now on they’ll hopefully start arriving.”

On Ryan Moore choosing Tunbridge Wells he added: “That was my fault really. I thought he was a bit more forward and a bit harder. It was hard to assess this horse after the last day, he made very hard work of winning. Obviously I put Ryan on the wrong one, but I do plenty of that!

“Ryan’s horse will be fine, he maybe didn’t travel as strongly as I thought he would and he maybe wants better ground. Maybe he needs to grow up a little bit.”

My Mate eyes tilt at the Stewards

My Mate Alfie (10/3) won a thrilling renewal of the Jebel Ali Racecourse & Stables Dash Stakes.

Five of the seven runners held every chance approaching the last of the six furlongs of the Listed race, including last year’s winner and 5/4 favourite Commanche Falls.

Michael Dods’ seven-year-old battled hard but was eventually run out of the places as My Mate Alfie forged ahead to win by half a length from Ano Syra.

The winner was trained by Ger Lyons and ridden by Colin Keane and was gaining due reward – as well as a second career success – following some solid performances in defeat.

Lyons said: “We’ve stuck to six, I know he gets seven, and the headgear has been the change. As you know, over here the sprinting programme’s not the same as it is in England so you learn as you go along and he’s learning on the job.

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“We could have gone to the Wokingham and I said to Austin (Whelan, owner) ‘I don’t think he’s good enough for the Wokingham, let’s have a look at this and if he wins this he’s in the Stewards’ Cup’. We’re always talking about prize money and the Wokingham is £150 (thousand) and the Stewards’ Cup is £250 (thousand), you know if you’re serious about prize money and if you’re lucky enough to have a horse……we’ll probably end up there and have a look at the prize money.

“A real, good horse will always beat him at that level but he’s there and he’ll be a lovely four-year-old. I think he takes any which ground but when the rain came I knew it wouldn’t hinder him. He’s so straightforward at home, he’ll do anything you want but without blinkers he does nothing on the track.

“In England you can sprint every Saturday, the English sprinting programme is fantastic and they have a good pot every weekend; they’re learning and they are out every weekend and when they do collect, they collect a pot and that’s the beauty about it. Prize money is so, so important and without prize money we can’t keep these horses.”

Celebration time for Lord

There was a minor surprise in the Listed Colm McLoughlin Celebration Stakes with even money favourite Azada only able to finish third.

Victory went the way of Lord Massusus (10/1) who showed a willing attitude in giving weight away all around in the mile contest.

Settled on the rail in behind the pace with Azada, whose seasonal debut came in the 1000 Guineas, on his outside, he quickened nicely through a gap when the tempo quickened and very soon had the race in safekeeping.

Azada was unable to go with him with Atlantic Coast running on for second to be his closest pursuer at the line. The winning distances were two and a half lengths and one and a half lengths.

“We were on a recovery mission, we were so disappointed the last day after the Group One (Tattersalls Gold Cup). We were thinking where did we go wrong, but it was just one of those things,” said winning trainer Joe Murphy.

“Even during the week his work wasn’t exciting, but sometimes that can be a good thing, Swamp Fox was the very same. It’s a wonderful occasion and we’re back in business, where he should be, and I think he’s a nice horse going forward.

“That was a Listed race and he gave 20lb to a good filly. We’ll probably travel with him, we’ll see how he comes out it and see what is available.”

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Lord Massusus was fourth in last year’s renewal and jockey Garry Carroll revealed that run led to a change of tactics, saying: “I was too far back and you don’t want to be making up ground on that round track so we elected to sit a bit closer, I got the gaps and he picked up well and won well.

“He carries the head low and sometimes you think he’s keener than he actually is, if you let him go a bit more he’s fine and he did things fairly well today; I thought he won well.

“Especially carrying 10 stone, I said I don’t want to be waiting, I want to keep the whole thing flowing and let them catch me rather than having to chase them down and it worked out nice today.

“It’s great for Joe, its important to get these good horses and the Derby meeting is where we all want to get winners so it’s great.”

Shar delight

Sharinay justified (2/1) favouritism in good style in the Paddy Power “From The Horse’s Mouth Podcast” Handicap.

The Harzand gelding jumped well but Ronan Whelan was content to take him back behind the front-running British raider Arabic Legend.

Arabic Legend made a good fist of making almost all but Whelan got Sharinay off the rail and into space in plenty of time and although he took a little time to master his rival, he extended close home and was good value for his one and three quarter length success.

Arabic Legend held on for second with Thor’s Hammer half a length down in third.

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Whelan told Racing TV: “We all thought if things went to plan, he was the best horse in the race and I was going to ride him like that. There was a bit of pace on early so I was happy enough to take him back and it worked out lovely; he had a bit of class to get me out of a hole, I got out, I quickened and then he’s only going through the motions.

“On paper he looked a stakes horse in a handicap, especially looking at his form the last day. I was doing a bit of soul searching that night wondering how I got this lad beat but when I seen what Johnny’s lad (Chicago Critic, third in the Jersey) went and done I didn’t feel so bad.

“He’s a horse on the improve, he’s going to get better as time goes on.”

The winner is trained by Michael Halford and Tracey Collins and the former said: “He has a great mind, he’s a good sound horse and just keeps improving. The step up in trip, they generally stay well, but the thing with him is he had a lot of pace for a Harzand. He is getting better with the trip.

“We’ll step things up now, I have him entered in the Meld Stakes, he’ll even go another furlong in time if we need to. We’ll take gradual steps. Ronan is riding great, he is a very underestimated rider. He rides our horses really well.”

Lady takes chequered flag in Rockingham

Amazon Lady (22/1) sprung a surprise in the Dubai Duty Free Rockingham Handicap.

Drawn in stall 1, Billy Lee opted to cross to the rail on the inside of the track and was the only runner to do so with the remainder all clustered towards the stands’ side and centre of the track.

Racing on her own didn’t inconvenience the four-year-old who came into the race in form having won well from 7lbs lower at Navan the last day and she scored by one and a half lengths from another 22/1 shot in Greek Flower.

The places were filled out by Lethal Nymph and JM Jungle.

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Winning trainer Willie McCreery revealed that he and Lee had discussed ‘taking the shortest route’ once they had seen the draw, saying: “He did it two years ago with a filly called Are We Dreaming so I’d no fear Billy knows the time of day, the sun wasn’t out today but he’s got a good clock in his head you know.

“He got into a lovely rhythm. She’s a big mare and I always say to the kids riding ‘if you get them into a rhythm they go a lot longer’, and she did; it was an enterprising ride but it was an intelligent ride too. Lads can go out there and go mad for the first three furlongs and they don’t get home, he saved and saved for as long as he could and filled her up and she finished out pretty well.

“She’s a big mare and she likes to race on her own. She does that every morning, she’s a hard one to ride at home; she gives Jessie a torrid time and she nearly killed me going out there; she’s a big strong mare and she keeps galloping. She’s in great form and she’s improving, she’s about 80 days in foal (to New Bay) and I think she’s after improving mentally and physically so I was hoping for a big run.”


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