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Dublin: 6°C Tuesday 13 April 2021
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Karawaan catches the eye with Irish Lincolnshire win as 2019 flat racing season gets under way

Ger Lyons’ horse posted an impressive victory in Naas last Sunday.

Colin Keane on board Karayaan comes home to win at Naas last Sunday.
Colin Keane on board Karayaan comes home to win at Naas last Sunday.
Image: Peter Mooney/INPHO

THEY RACED ON the flat at Naas on Sunday.

It was the first time that they had raced on the flat on turf in Ireland in 2019. Aidan O’Brien had a winner and Ger Lyons had a winner and Jim Bolger had three winners. It was as if we had never been away.

Karawaan won the Tote Irish Lincolnshire. He put up a fine performance in so doing too. Well drawn in stall three, Ger Lyons’ horse was nicely settled by Colin Keane through the early staged of the race, in mid-division and along the inside.

He travelled well into the home straight and moved up nicely along the inside just behind the leaders. He needed a gap as they raced past the two-furlong marker as leader Warnaq was keeping on well in front, but when you are travelling as well as Karawaan was travelling, you can often engineer racing room for yourself.

Keane allowed his horse move off the rail, eased him through the gap between Warnaq and Trading Point as it narrowed – one and a half horse-widths wide and not much more – and asked him to pick up. When he did, the response was impressive, and Karawaan kept on well up the hill to post an impressive victory.

This was Karawaan’s first run for Ger Lyons. The Sea The Stars gelding was a promising horse for Sir Michael Stoute as a three-year-old but, gelded after his three-year-old season, he didn’t progress as expected in three runs last season at four.

Picked up for £32,000 by Gaelic Bloodstock at the Goffs UK Horses In Training Sale last August, he is a fine acquisition for owners David Spratt and Sean Jones and Lynne Lyons. He raced on Sunday in the David Spratt colours that Brendan Brackan carried to victory in the Irish Lincoln two years ago, except that winning rider Gary Carroll wore the green cap that day, not the yellow cap that was worn by his better-fancied stable companion Sea Wolf, who ran a fine race to finish third.

Interestingly, Sea Wolf won a big handicap at The Curragh on Irish Guineas weekend on his next run, while Brendan Brackan finished third behind Minding in the Group 2 Mooresbridge Stakes next time, before going to Leopardstown and winning the Listed Glencairn Stakes quite decisively. So there is precedent.

Karawaan has a little way to go if he is to prove himself at Listed race level. He was racing off a handicap rating of 83 on Sunday, whereas Brendan Brackan won his Irish Lincoln off a mark of 105. That said, the handicapper has already raised Karawaan’s handicap rating by 10lb to a mark of 93, and Ger Lyons’ horse has the scope to progress beyond that mark now. He goes on better ground too, and he stays further than a mile, so he has lots of options. It will be interesting to see how he goes as the season develops.

It will also be interesting to see how Still Standing goes as the season develops. Jessica Harrington’s colt was impressive in landing the Listed Devoy Stakes, keeping on well under newly-appointed stable jockey Shane Foley to come away from his rivals.

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The Mastercraftsman colt progressed nicely last season as a three-year-old, wining three of the four handicaps that he contested, and this was another nice step forward. He showed a really willing attitude to come clear of his field here, and that will be a big asset for him to take with him if he steps up in grade now. We haven’t got to the bottom of him yet, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

Normandel also showed a good willing attitude in landing the Group 3 Lodge Park Stud Park Express Stakes. Jim Bolger’s filly travelled well for Kevin Manning to the two-furlong pole and she picked up well to hit the front. She had to battle to get the better of Yulong Gold Fairy and she had enough in reserve to withstand the late lunge of the gallant Hand On Heart.

It was appropriate that Jim Bolger should train the winner of the Park Express Stakes, given that he trained the filly after whom the race is named to land the Nassau Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes in 1986, and that he has trained some of her best progeny, including New Approach, winner of the Epsom Derby and the Dewhurst Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes and the Champion Stakes. Normandel was the third leg of a 5,354/1 treble for Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning on the day.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Never No More ran out an impressive winner of the Madrid Handicap under Donnacha O’Brien, and the Fozzy Stack-trained Wargrave made all to comfortably land the closing three-year-old maiden, while it looks like Michael O’Callaghan has a nice prospect on his hands in Red Epaulette, who was impressive in winning the opening juveniles’ maiden, the first turf flat race of the new season.

We’re off and running now.

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Donn McClean

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