Rising star Colin Keane enjoyed an armchair ride as Ger Lyons' heavily backed Brendan Bracken turned what was supposed to be one of the most competitive handicaps of the year into a bloodless rout at Galway last night.
A field of 18 went to post for the €115,000 Topaz Mile, but from a long way out only one mattered. Keane moved the four-year-old – backed from a morning show of 20/1 into 10/1 – from a box seat on the rail into a position to challenge before turning in.
As they began rounding the crest of the hill at Ballybrit, he asked his mount to go on. The response was unequivocal. Brendan Bracken eventually stretched eight-and-a-half lengths clear, as his 17 rivals were left swinging hopelessly at shadows.
"That was the plan!" a delighted Shane Lyons said in his brother's absence. "It was hatched a long time ago and we were very confident. We thought he might be a Group Three horse, and he won like won today. He will go to Dubai for the winter now."
Lyons also paid a glowing tribute to the 18-year-old apprentice up top. "He is a lovely, lovely fella," he said. "If you told him he was riding in the Champion Stakes tomorrow, he'd say, "yeah, ok," and if you told him that he was riding in a seller, his response would be the same. He is one for the future."
Son of Trim handler Ger, Keane has made giant strides over the past few years. This was his 14th win of the season, not to mention the most significant of his short career.
"To win a big handicap like that is brilliant," he beamed. "I didn't think he'd do it so easy, but he was the class horse in the race. Things couldn't be better."
Brendan Bracken is owned by Anamoine Bloodstock, and Lyons was quick to acknowledge the long-term support of that operation's figurehead, Cristina Patino, whose flagship performer Snow Fairy was recently retired. Brog Deas filled the runner-up spot, with last year's winner Vastonea taking third ahead of Seanie.
In the novice hurdle, Davy Condon showed why he is keeping the heat on Ruby Walsh in the riders' table with an exquisite steer on Que Pasa. Walsh's mount Shamar was favourite to confirm its Killarney superiority over the five-year-old mare.
However, conscious that Shamar had done Que Pasa for speed last time, Condon made the first move, sweeping into the lead on Harry Kelly's 7/1 shot at the foot of the hill. Walsh was soon in pursuit, but, aided by a 3lb swing at the weights, Condon's brave partner held on by a neck, with Monday winner Diplomat flying home for third.
"Davy was excellent on her," Fethard-based Kelly admitted. "This mare wouldn't be straightforward – she lives out 24/7 – but I've always thought she is as good as anything I've had. The Grade Three Mares' Hurdle at Down Royal is the target now."
Condon's 20th win of the campaign left him trailing Walsh by four, while the reigning champion Davy Russell was at his assured best when guiding Rathlin (13/8) to a straightforward triumph in the Latin Quarter Chase.
Russell kept close tabs on the front-running Hidden Cyclone aboard Gigginstown's bold-jumper. The rejuvenated Mouse Morris-trained gelding galloped six lengths clear after leading four-out, but was value for more as he completed a hat-trick.
"He is a magnificent steed," Mouse commented, adding that Rathlin would now get a break.
Morris, of course, is also a Fethard man, and the Tipperary town enjoyed a treble on the night when Joe Murphy's Sister Slew (8/1) clung on by a nose under Gary Carroll to deny Tax Reform in Caulfieldindustrial.com Maiden over seven furlongs.
The seven-furlong handicap was another thriller, with Footprint getting home in dramatic fashion by a head from Knights Templar in a four-way blanket finish to land a touch (25/1into 14/1) for the Navan duo of Pat Martin and Andrew Thornton.
Yet another gambled-on winner went east to Meath when Busted Tycoon stormed home under Fran Berry to give Tony Martin his third winner of the festival in the two-mile finale, having been backed from 4/1 into 9/4 favouritism. Martin was emulating Dermot Weld's tally, after the odds-on Tarfasha made most of the running to confirm the promise of her debut second at Leopardstown in the juvenile fillies' maiden.
"She has the potential to go right to the very top," Weld said of Pat Smullen's mount. "She will go for a Listed race and then maybe the Group One Fillies' Mile at Ascot."
Weld also acknowledged the passing of RTE broadcaster Colm Murray. "He was a wonderful character and a very special person," he said poignantly of the popular racing enthusiast, whose Willie Mullins-trained Sweet My Lord has an entry in tomorrow's big race.
On a largely overcast day that saw the only showers of note fall well before racing to make no material difference to the decent ground, attendance grew by no less than 30pc to 18,248. In contrast, the corresponding day last year was a complete washout.