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Bay day at Down Royal

By Ron McKnight

Published 22/06/2015

Bet on the Bay: Magners Ulster Derby winner Botany Bay, rider Niall McCullagh, owner Jacqueline O’Brien and trainer Charles O’Brien in the winners enclosure at Down Royal
Bet on the Bay: Magners Ulster Derby winner Botany Bay, rider Niall McCullagh, owner Jacqueline O’Brien and trainer Charles O’Brien in the winners enclosure at Down Royal

Chris Hayes proved top jockey on Magners Ulster Derby day at Down Royal with a hat-trick of wins to supplement a double at Limerick the previous evening.

But while Hayes had partnered the Ulster Derby winner three times in past seasons it was the one that got away on Saturday as Botany Bay won the feature Ulster Derby in the style of a good horse for trainer Charles O'Brien - son of the legendary Vincent O'Brien.

Botany Bay is a progeny of the great Irish thoroughbred, Galileo.

O'Brien senior triumphed in the Maze feature seven times in an illustrious career and Mrs Jacqueline O'Brien, wife of the former Master Of Ballydoyle, was present to collect the Derby trophy as head of the syndicate of Botany Bay owners, including Coolmore Stud connections John Magnier and Michael Tabor.

Punters roared and cheered as the very well supported favourite, Fields Of Athenry, representing champion trainer Aidan O'Brien, and partnered by his son, Joseph, hit the front at the top of the hill.

Buenos Y Bobos had led early but the Ballydoyle runner readily swept into the lead as Brightly Shinning, whose rider reported later his saddle slipped coming out of the stalls, also attempted to challenge. All the while, Botany Bay, with the very talented Niall McCullagh, winner of the Irish St Ledger on Royal Diamond in 2012, aboard was making steady improvement on the wide outside and switched between the leading pair to keep on in good fashion to claim the £100,000 prize.

Charles O'Brien said: "That's the first time I have won this race. I wasn't sure the horse knew enough for a very competitive handicap. He'll make into a nice staying horse and I had looked at the Queens Vase at Ascot but this was his target.

"I've always had great faith in this horse. I just wasn't sure that the pace was going to suit him. They went very slow early and I was hoping for a better gallop. It was only really the last 100 yards that he got going. He is a huge, long striding horse and I was just afraid when they quickened they would take him off his feet which they did actually and it was only in the last 100 yards he got going."

Two of Chris Hayes' winners on the day were provided by Ulster trainers. The ever smiling Hayes, known as Chesney, got the treble started when winning on Cheers Buddy for Maralin based trainer, Lee Smyth who was claiming the seven furlong handicap for the second successive year.

The second and third placed horses were to the fore throughout but Hayes conjured a decisive challenge at the furlong marker to win going away.

Trainer Smyth said: "I'm delighted! The owner, Yvonne Lowe from Doncaster, bought the horse and left it with me. I'm only 10 minutes from the track and popped over late on Friday night to check the ground and was confident he would run well.

"He's won five now including four on the all-weather. I'm especially pleased for the owner who has two horses with me, including sprinter Kano's Girl."

The Moira trainer had no time for celebrations on the day and yesterday, after exercising his 17-strong team, said: "Derby day was the plan for Cheers Buddy but I have no set future target although Ayr and Hamilton would be possible tracks as I'm looking for fast ground."

Smyth will have no runners at the Curragh next weekend as he has already made plans to take a small team including Duncan Of Scotland, Shrewd and Norville, which won the Maze race last year, to Doncaster on Friday and Saturday this week."

Before that he enjoyed a Father's Day celebration with his dad who lives near the Down Royal track.

Chris Hayes has a long association with Caledon based trainer Andy Oliver and, having first call on his runners, sprang a surprise when landing the Ulster Oaks on Witty Repartee for the Tyrone handler.

The local runner ran second to leader Plus Ca Change before hitting the front at the two furlong pole and staying on strongly to win easily.

Trainer Oliver said: "Everything went to plan and Chris gave her a masterful ride. She's a progressive filly and I'll look for another handicap fort her now. The Campbell family owners from Coalisland are great supporters of the yard."

Hayes completed his hat-trick in the final race when scoring on the Kevin Prendergast trained Mufrad to complete a great day's racing.

Popular Ardee trainer Harry Rogers, who is recovering well from a serious injury, claimed the opener for the second successive year with Calm Bay while trainer David Wachman won the two year old maiden with Independence Day, the winner looking very impressive and an above average horse for the local venue. Both races over five furlongs saw Calm Bay break one minute (59.66 secs) while Independence Day was just over on 1.00.13, carrying an additional 3lbs and easing up.

Telegraph racing correspondent Ron McKnight guided punters to four Derby day winners, including feature race winner Botany Bay at 7/1 and Calm Bay at 8/1, in Saturday's edition.

Belfast Telegraph

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