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Dublin: -1°C Tuesday 2 March 2021

Townend gets the season off to winning start with Aramon

At the Curragh, both Wayne Lordan and Joseph O’Brien warmed up for tomorrow’s Irish Derby with a treble apiece.

Aramon and Paul Townend jumping the last ahead of Petit Mouchoir and Rachael Blackmore to win in Tipperary.
Aramon and Paul Townend jumping the last ahead of Petit Mouchoir and Rachael Blackmore to win in Tipperary.
Image: Alain Barr

IT WAS A packed programme as the Irish Derby Festival got under way at the Curragh this evening, while earlier in the day, Tipperary played host to the day’s feature event, the Grade 3 Grimes Hurdle.

Willie Mullins provided the winner of the contest in the form of Aramon (9/2), who illustrated his enduring class by sprinting away from Petit Mouchoir after the final flight.

Victorious jockey Paul Townend, having his first ride since the resumption of National Hunt racing on Monday, could be seen sharing a joke with his vanquished rival Rachael Blackmore as they returned to the parade ring.

The Corkman was undoubtedly suggesting that his friend would have to satisfy herself with adding a Classic to her CV instead, as she takes the mount on the Emmet Mullins-trained King Of The Throne in Irish Derby tomorrow.

Aramon was a Grade 1 winner as a novice and though he found his promotion to the grown-up ranks testing, was last seen to very good effect when runner-up in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The conditions of this race were not in his favour however and the backers went with Petit Mouchoir, whose trainer Henry de Bromhead was at the Home of the Classics to run the rule over his representatives there.

Blackmore went for home after the penultimate obstacle on the 11/10 favourite, himself a dual Grade 1 victor, but Townend was in her slipstream throughout.

The champion threw his partner at the last and the grey responded, accelerating clear on landing to score by two lengths, with the Galway Hurdle and potentially some other flat targets now on the horizon.

“It was a good performance” said Townend. “He’s carrying a bit, like myself, and he can only improve from it. He is a high-class performer and his ability really shone through there, to be able to defy the weight he carried and the lack of a run.

“He was after taking his blow and I always had it in the back of my mind to have one pop if I could be close enough in the straight and keep my powder dry as long as I could.

“Anywhere he goes he’s going to carry weight but Sharjah showed you can carry weight in Galway if you’re good enough and you’d imagine the Galway Hurdle is going to be the most obvious jumping target for him anyway.”

Elsewhere in the card there were doubles for Karl Thornton and ‘Shark’ Hanlon. Thornton got on the mark with the consistent Shanroe (13/8) and Lord Lariat (7/1), both piloted by Donagh Meyler, while Hanlon was triumphant with Skyace (15/2) – Jody McGarvey doing the steering – before unleashing a hugely impressive bumper winner under Shane Fenelon in former John Gosden charge, Hallowed Star (7/1).

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Back at Flat HQ in the evening, jockey Wayne Lordan and trainer Joseph O’Brien warmed up for the Irish Derby with a treble apiece.

Lordan scored an early double for his boss Aidan O’Brien and if Merchants Navy (6/4jf) was straightforward, he had to work considerably harder on Delphi (11/1), whose stamina kicked in under maximum effort from the saddle to get the better of Carrytheone and Agitare in a pulsating finish to the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden for three-year-old colts and geldings.

The conclusion to the Fillies’ Premier Handicap was no less thrilling as Lordan wore the JP McManus colours more commonly seen over jumps and delivered the Joseph O’Brien-conditioned Music To My Ears (16/1) right over the top of a slew of rivals to chin Johnny Murtagh’s Siamese.

O’Brien had gotten on the board a half hour earlier thanks to a trademark power-packed drive on Gee Rex (4/1f) from Declan McDonogh, who is enjoying a fruitful partnership with Carriganóg Racing this season.

And it was former pony racing prodigy Dylan Browne McMonagle who totted up the trio, adding the Apprentice Derby to the Dingle Derby garnered five years ago by charting a wide path on Tonkinese (6/1), who showed plenty of pluck inside the final furlong to hold off the Mullins-trained Sayo by half a length.

The Shane Foley/Jessica Harrington juggernaut continues to thrive. They recorded another double, with the Kilkenny pilot bringing his tally for the season to 22 and a lead of five over nearest challenger Colin Keane in the jockeys’ table.

Aunt Bee (7/1) was very gutsy in the Anglesea Lodge Equine Hospital Maiden having been in the firing line throughout but it was the last-gasp success of Bearberry (4/1f) in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies’ Maiden that was particularly noteworthy, given how much ground she gave up to the entire field out of the stalls.

Having moved effortlessly into contention without being overworked however, the daughter of Kodiac really lengthened when asked to do so by Foley and a final lunge denied the Michael Halford-trained Feminism by a head.

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About the author:

Daragh Ó Conchúir

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