County Tyrone trainer Andy Oliver was only just denied a major International victory on Saturday night in Chicago when Panama Hat finished runner-up in the American St Leger at Arlington racecourse.
Top Irish jockey and regular partner Chris Hayes gave the local horse a perfect ride – running fourth prior to leading off the home turn only for the German trained, Lucky Speed, which had stalked Panama Hat throughout the race, to battle his way to a three quarters of the length victory in the final furlong.
The winner had won the Group 1 German Derby in 2013 for trainer, Peter Schiergen and jockey, Andrasch Starke and in the process of winning set a course record for the St Leger.
Favourite in the $400,000 contest – Hyper finished third four lengths behind the first pair.
Chris Hayes said post-race: “He had a lovely smooth trip all the way around and he kicked off the turn. I probably just met a good one on the day.”
The Ulster based trainer said: “He ran a blinder and was just caught on the line - he did us proud. I will discuss future targets with his owners (American-based Team Valour) in the coming days before making plans.”
The winning jockey stated: “We knew he needed more distance and that’s what he got today in the American St. Leger, he can handle the American track very well. I am so happy this is my first win in the United States and to win the St. Leger is amazing. It was the right conditions to bring him over here and I’m very happy.”
Meanwhile, Irish Champion trainer Aidan O’Brien landed his fourth victory in the Secretariat Stakes with Highland Reel following Ciro , Treasure Beach  and Adelaide .
Highland Reel was impressive with Seamie Heffernan making all the running and sprinting clear in the straight.
Heffernan said: “He’s a star, it was like home when it started raining! I was never in any doubt, I didn’t see much pace and this horse gallops and stays and he’s genuine. He won easily. You’re always confident when Aidan tells you he likes one.”
Jamie Spencer won the Beverley D Stakes on the British trained, Secret Gesture but delight soon turned to depression as a stewards inquiry and objection was announced resulting in Secret Gesture being demoted to third place and Spencer must feel there is little justice at Arlington for him having suffered the same fate in the Arlington Million on Powerscourt in 2004 prior to returning and winning the feature the following year.
The connections of Secret Gesture on Sunday were considering the possibility of an appeal on the stewards decision. The Pizza Man – the original favourite for the American St Leger but opted for the Arlington Million – duly landed the feature for local connections, who described the weather on race day as “Monsoon-like”.