Donn's Articles » Irish 2000 Guineas

Irish 2000 Guineas

Ken Condon knew that Romanised was a long shot when he took him over to The Curragh yesterday to contest the Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas and legged Shane Foley up.  He knew that he was taking on some of the greatest powers in the world of thoroughbred horse racing: Ballydoyle, Godolphin, Sheikh Hamdan, Al Shaqab Racing.  But he believed that Robert Ng’s colt deserved to take his chance in Ireland’s first Classic of the season.  And it was irrelevant that he hadn’t had a winner yet this season.  Roll the dice, you never know.  So he did, and his numbers came up.

But this was not a lottery win, despite the fact that Romanised was allowed go off at 25/1.  On the contrary, the case for the Holy Roman Emperor colt was well thought out.

“I knew that we were an outsider,” said Condon.  “But I felt that he would run a big race.  We have always thought a lot of him, and he worked as well as he has ever worked on Tuesday.”

Condon thought enough of Romanised to take him to Royal Ascot last June as a juvenile on the back of a maiden win, where he was only beaten a total of two lengths in the Coventry Stakes.  He didn’t win again in two subsequent runs as a juvenile, but he was only beaten three lengths in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, and he finished second to this year’s 2000 Guineas third Masar in the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown last September.

“There were excuses for his defeat on his debut this season at Naas,” said the trainer.  “So I thought that we were coming here with a chance.  It’s unbelievable to win it though.  It’s the stuff of dreams.  Even to have a horse who is good enough to run in the Irish 2000 Guineas.  I feel a bit shook, to be honest.  I’d say that it will take a few days to sink in.”

A native of Ballyhea in County Cork, Condon’s introduction to horses was through hunting and eventing, in which he represented Ireland at Junior level.  But it was always as a trainer that he saw his future more than as a rider.

He gained valuable experience with Coolmore Stud, and in the States with Lane’s End Farm and with trainer Todd Pletcher.  Then he spent five years with John Oxx, where he was an integral cog in the training of top class horses like Sinndar, Namid, Ebadiyla and Enzeli, before setting up on his own.

“We’re a relatively small outfit.  We only have about 30 horses.  All I wanted when I started out was to train a few winners.  But to train a Classic winner, it’s magic, you’re in a select club.  It’s a huge team effort though, I’m delighted for the lads at home.”

Condon’s training career had been building up to yesterday.  He had won Group 3 races with Norman Invader and Marvada and Success Days and Rise High, and he bagged his first Group 2 prize when he sent out Success Days to win the Sky Bet York Stakes at York last July.  He hadn’t won a Group 1 race or a Classic before yesterday.  Now he has.

Jockey Shane Foley already had a Classic in the bag.  It was on this weekend in 2016 that he booted the Adrian Keatley-trained Jet Setting to victory in the Irish 1000 Guineas.  Two years later, he has doubled his Classic tally.

“I have always said that Romanised was a really good horse,” said the rider.  “He was just fresh and green the last day at Naas, but his run behind Masar in the Solario Stakes last year was good.  We went a good gallop today, but he was always travelling, and he picked up in the style of a good horse.”

Romanised may have foiled Aidan O’Brien’s bid to land his 12th Irish 2000 Guineas, but much of the rest of the day belonged to the master of Ballydoyle.  As well as saddling the second, third and fourth in the day’s feature race, he also had four winners on the day, including Fairyland in the Listed Marble Hill Stakes and Merchant Navy in the Group 2 Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes. 

Fairyland  travelled well through her race for Seamie Heffernan, she picked up nicely to hit the front on the run to the furlong pole and she kept on well all the way to the line to win well. She now has the option of contesting either the Albany Stakes or the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.

Merchant Navy was impressive in winning the Greenlands Stakes on his first run for O’Brien since his arrival from Australia.  A November foal, so only really three and a half years old, he stayed on strongly for Ryan Moore, who had a treble on the day, to get up and beat his stable companion Spirit Of Valor by a length.  It looks like the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot is next up for the Fastnet Rock colt.

The other Group race on the day, the Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes, went to the Mick Channon-trained Opal Tiara, who kept on well under a strong drive from Ronan Whelan to get home by almost two lengths from Hydrangea.

© The Sunday Times, 27th May 2018