Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Ulster jockey in Guineas triumph

Jockey Martin Harley celebrates on Samitar wins the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas during the Abu Dhabi Irish Guineas Festival at Curragh Racecourse, Co. Kildare

For once yesterday, the spotlight was off Aidan O'Brien, who had taken a record-equalling 27th Irish Classic on Saturday, and onto a young man winning his first of any stripe.

Step forward last year's apprentice champion Martin Harley — from Letterkenny — victorious on 12-1 chance Samitar in the 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh in a finish dominated by outsiders.

But though the filly's comfortable length and a half defeat of |33-1 shot Ishvana may have been surprising to onlookers, it was less so to those closest to her.

As a juvenile, the daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar had failed by only a head to take a Group One prize and there were perfectly valid excuses for her two dullish previous efforts this term.

Harley said: “It's a dream come true to ride a winner like this.

“To win the fillies' Guineas at home is just unbelievable.

“She came here on song and was always travelling for me.

“Two furlongs down, I was never going to get beat and when I asked her she just picked up and ran.

“It was an amazing feeling,” added the delighted 22-year-old Ulsterman. “This was a big opportunity to get.”

Winning trainer Mick Channon, typically, put it more succinctly.

“At half way I turned and said ‘she pisses it'. I knew if the real Samitar turned up she'd be right there, and she did and she was,” said the former England striker.

The runaway Newmarket Guineas heroine Homecoming Queen was 11-8 favourite to follow

up her nine-length romp in the Rowley Mile mud three weeks earlier and take O'Brien past his namesake Vincent's Irish Classic total. She led until Samitar, relishing the fast ground, cruised past but dropped back to fourth.

It was left to Ishvana, the longest-priced of the O'Brien trio, to try to salvage honour for her stable, but she was always second best. Another long shot, Princess Sinead at 25-1, plugged on for third place.

Samitar, the only British challenger in the field, gave Berkshire-based Channon his 17th top-level success, 10 of which have come with fillies.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was a first Classic for him, too, though not at his first attempt.

Yesterday was the first time Harley had ridden Samitar, owned by US-based Martin Schwartz, in public.

“Dead chuffed for the lad,” said Channon. “He works hard and he had the confidence to grab his chance and get it spot-on.”

Like Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas hero Power, Samitar is bound for Royal Ascot next month, he for the St James's Palace Stakes and she for the filly equivalent, the Coronation Stakes.

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