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Unsinkable can float home for converted trainer Ger Lyons

By Richard Forristal

Ger Lyons has developed a somewhat reluctant affinity for Galway's unique charms and his fingerprints are all over tonight's Topaz Mile.

In times past, the highly efficient Meath operator would swerve the summer gala in Ballybrit altogether.

Combined with an inevitable sense of futility in trying to compete with a DK Weld equine battalion that might have been targeted specifically at this particular week since birth, the trappy nature of an undulating track that can leave so much to chance didn't endear itself to Lyons.

For a man renowned for maximising the full potential of the horses at his disposal all year around, he would take or leave Galway - and he rarely gave a second thought to letting it pass off entirely without him. Then 2013 happened.

Lyons felt that Brendan Brackan was too well treated not to have a cut at a valuable handicap, and tonight's €120,000 affair fitted the bill. He isn't a trainer that would look a gift horse in the mouth, so he cast his prejudices aside.

Under the then nascent talent of Colin Keane, Brendan Brackan bolted up, plundering a winner's pot of over €71,000. That was Lyons' Damascene moment. He was converted, and the extent to which he has moderated his thinking is maybe most evident in his debuting a two-year-old at the track tonight.

In 2014, Lyons returned to net a further €23,000 when Piri Wango was just collared in the Mile by Vastonea. When it was put to him on social media recently that his stance had evolved, he pointed to the luck that he had enjoyed in the premier handicap, and quipped, tongue firmly in cheek,"Greed is good."

This evening, Lyons is responsible for five runners, or 36pc of the entire 14-runner Mile field, with Brendan Brackan topping the weights, this time under young Robbie Downey.

Keane prefers Unsinkable, and it will be a surprise if the quintet don't have a serious impact on proceedings.

The gallant grey Vastonea is also back. He landed the race for a second time in three years under Gary Halpin 12 months ago, and looks to have a live chance of becoming the first horse to win it three times. His indomitable trainer Kevin Prendergast is seeking a seventh win in the showpiece, all of 43 years after his first.

In the time since the old McDonogh Handicap's inauguration a year earlier in 1971, just one cross-channel raider has taken the spoils for export. Brian Ellison's Baraweez - third last year before winning later in the week - and George Baker's Jack's Revenge are charged with doubling that tally.

Both English handlers have booked one of the O'Brien brothers. Dual champion jockey Joseph is pencilled in for Jack's Revenge and Donnacha is booked for Baraweez, so they won't want for assistance from the saddle.

Belfast Telegraph


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