While the management at Down Royal are now focusing on their premier fixture – the Down Royal Festival at the end of next month – it is notable the Lisburn course has enjoyed improved quality of flat racing this term.
Order Of St George trained by Aidan O’Brien and partnered by the Champion trainer’s son, Joseph, to win the historic Her Majesty’s Plate at the track in July tops the list.
The winning jockey on the day indicated the St Leger trial and the Irish St Leger were the targets and the high-class horse duly won both events having opted for the final Irish classic and defecting from the English equivalent the previous day due to a clash of dates during the Champions weekend. However, his stable companion Bondi Beach collected the English classic.
Top Australian owner Lloyd Williams last weekend bought a stake in both Ballydoyle trained St Leger winners with a view to the Melbourne Cup while it is interesting to note that Media Puzzle, winner of the Melbourne Cup in 2002, won the Ulster Harp Derby in 2000 prior to supplying top trainer Dermot Weld with a second victory in the race that stops a nation.
The recent Ulster Cesarewitch resulted in a dead heat, however the third-placed Encrypted Message boosted form when filling the runner-up spot at Newmarket last weekend despite being the outsider of the Tony Martin trained pair of runners in the race. His stable companion Cassells Rock, winner over hurdles at Down Royal last month, started favourite for the Cesarewitch Trial Stakes.
Independence Day trained by David Wachman and owned by the Coolmore principals was ultra impressive when winning his maiden at the track’s Ulster Derby fixture. The high-class two year old has subsequently finished runner-up in listed and group company and looks a very progressive sort.
Botany Bay won this year’s Ulster Derby however the runner-up on the day, Fields Of Athenry, highlighted that form when finishing a very good third in the Group 1 English St Leger, part of the British Champion series and less than two lengths behind the winner.
Down Royal Manager, Mike Todd said: “I’m delighted with the quality and success of horses at the course during the flat season. Most importantly the track received numerous compliments from trainers and jockeys on conditions and the going during the racing on the level which was much appreciated.”
Meanwhile, the Irish European Breeders’ Fund in conjunction with Horse Racing Ireland has announced an increase of prize-money to €75,000 for the Irish Stallion Farm European Breeders’ Fund Auction Race Final.
The seven furlong auction series final will take place on Sunday, October 18, at Naas Racecourse.
The two-year-old race will be the culmination of sixteen races staged the length and breadth of Ireland.
The final is restricted to two-year-olds only that are EBF eligible and which have run in at least one race in Ireland that was sponsored by the IEBF and that was confined to horses sold under the hammer at public auction.