Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

James Lambe in the pink

Sir Ector wins derby after trainer dons lucky shirt

Chris Hayes salutes the crowd after winning the Magners Ulster Derby on board Sir Ector
Chris Hayes salutes the crowd after winning the Magners Ulster Derby on board Sir Ector

James Lambe donned his lucky pink and white shirt which matches Sir Ector's racing colours – and became the first Ulster trainer to win the Magners Ulster Derby.

The £100,000 race, the highlight of the Summer Festival, was a competitive renewal but Sir Ector, with Chris Hayes aboard, proved an easy winner for the Armagh handler.

Jim Bolger's filly Maggie Dalton filled second place and English challenger Scatter Dice, trained by Mark Johnston, third. Last year's victor Alhellah only managed fifth.

Lambe last night reflected on Saturday's historic achievement.

"It is just sinking in – I thought some of the top local trainers of the past would have won the race," he said.

"It is all a matter of team work – I have great staff, a terrific supporter in Patrick McCann and excellent new facilities to train flat horses," added Lambe, who recently moved to Brooklands Stables near Loughgall.

The Galway Festival at the end of next month and a race on the flat is now the target.

Sir Ector is an ultra-versatile performer having won over hurdles at the Maze last year and also registered success on the flat at Leopardstown. He previously won three times on the flat in France prior to his purchase.

"That's better than Epsom – a Derby winner at my local course. I'm over the moon and delighted for the owners," added Lambe.

"He's a very good horse and his French flat form shows that – he ran in top races at Longchamp.

"He has done me proud over hurdles and now a Derby – he's very versatile and probably the best I have had."

The £100,000 prize was the biggest Lambe (below, with Hayes) has won in his career.

Winning jockey Hayes was completing a double at Down Royal, having won the two-year-old race on Kevin Prendergast's hot favourite Zakhm, and a hat-trick in the province's richest flat race having triumphed on Celtic Dane (2010) and Temlett (2007).

Hayes gave Sir Ector an excellent waiting ride, holding him up prior to going fifth at the quarter mile marker and leading a furlong from home before completing a comfortable victory.

The American-bred winner is owned by the local Dorightlys syndicate, based in Armagh.

The previous night's good/firm going was altered by overnight rain and heavy showers during the afternoon with the new watering system at the course having been in action in advance of racing so Saturday's going was changed to good/yielding ahead of the first race.

The supporting feature, the Coolmore Stud-sponsored Ulster Oaks, saw Jim Bolger gain compensation for his Derby defeat when Fionnaur, with apprentice Dylan Robinson aboard, made all the running to land the major fillies prize at the Lisburn venue.

Robinson (18), from Wexford, who claimed his fourth career win, was delighted after landing a big-race victory.

"She was always cruising and as soon as I let her go, she went away," he said.

Johnny Murtagh was at Royal Ascot claiming the Leading Rider title but Cyclone supplied the popular jockey/trainer with his first winner at Down Royal as a handler when winning the one mile handicap.