Jack denies Freedom at Dundalk
Saxo Jack denied top-weight Steps To Freedom in the valuable Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Red God' Handicap at Dundalk.
Trained by Ger Lyons, the three-year-old was the most unexposed runner in the field, arriving on the back of just three previous outings culminating in a Leopardstown maiden success, but he belied that statistic with a smart display under Gary Carroll.
The 7-1 shot was always travelling well and hit the front inside the final furlong before resisting the strong challenge from the rear of Steps To Freedom by half a length, with Mick Halford's course specialist Banna Boircha running a great race in third, another length and three-quarters away.
Lyons said: "He just got in the race, which was a concern, but I thought he'd enjoy this trip. Gary gave him a lovely ride. I rate my own horses at home so it is irrelevant what the handicapper gives them really, I have this lad down as a stakes horse eventually. He's by King's Best, so he's only going to get better with age. I thought his mark of 89 was grand.
"I was a bit worried about the hurly burly nature of the race, especially at the first bend, as he's a bit feminine-looking, but when he got a good position I was happy. Ultimately he'll be in Dubai with me, so I don't care what the handicapper does - as long as he doesn't give him 117 (as stablemate Brendan Brackan was after winning at Galway)."
Jessica Harrington will have been very encouraged by the performance of Steps To Freedom ahead of his proposed tilt at the Ebor at York on Saturday.
Dundalk six-furlong specialist Farmleigh House (10-1) put up a fine weight-carrying performance to take the Bar One Racing Mourne Handicap in a thrilling finish.
Niall McCullagh hit the front a furlong out on Willie Martin's six-year-old, who was carrying the welter burden of 10st 2lb, and he was all out to hold the charging Via Ballycroy by a short head as they flashed past the post together.
The Wexford handler said: "He goes to Newmarket on Saturday for the Listed race over six furlongs (Hopeful Stakes), and hopefully the ground will be quick over there. He's been working well but was coming back from a lung infection. He'd mucus on his lungs and was off for a month getting treatment."
In-form jockey Connor King got Queen Grace (10-1) away quickly in the Crowne Plaza Race & Stay Rated Race and Michael Browne's mare had the contest won coming down the straight before holding favourite My Good Brother by half a length.
The trainer said: "She's been threatening that for a while. When I saw this race I thought it was readymade for her and I knew she was in great form coming here. She's going to be covered next year and that's a real thrill to win today."