Declan Rix

After a brilliant weekend's racing which saw Ken Condon win his first Classic in the Irish 2000 Guineas with Romanised, Declan Rix has four topics of conversation.

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GIANT KILLER CONDON LANDS FIRST CLASSIC WITH ROMANISED

When your surname isn’t O’Brien it’s tough to win a Classic as a trainer these days – especially in Ireland – but that’s what 43-year-old Ken Condon, jockey Shane Foley and owner Robert Ng achieved when their Romanised won the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at The Curragh on Saturday.

It was a first European Classic for the Cork native Condon, a first for Ng and a second for Shane Foley, after he guided the mud-loving Jet Setting to success over Minding in the Irish 1000 Guineas in 2016.

Fancy prices of 40/1 were available overnight about Romanised, the son of Holy Roman Emperor eventually going off at a starting price of 25/1. Punters took onboard the positive pre-race comments from Condon to swing the bat at an overpriced horse, and it all came to fruition for a trainer who clearly felt his inmate was in good order; the sign of a man who knows his job.

Some may have been questioning that last statement going into the first Classic of the Irish season, for Condon – who learned his trade with John Oxx - had yet to train a winner this campaign before Romanised went to post.

Romanised wins the Irish 2000 Guineas
Romanised was a first Classic winner for Ken Condon

After such giant killing successes for small trainers in the past, the media and racing fans always wish to see more support given to the orchestrater of yards. I’m happy to tow that line here, especially when it could offer a more competitive environment in Ireland. A Coolmore monopoly is no good for anyone in Irish racing apart from said operation, for all the people that run the various factions come across as decent human beings.

Condon already showed he was highly-capable pre-Guineas with the likes of Success Days – also owned by Robert Ng – but he’s taken that a step further here in guaranteeing Romanised a stud career. If my research is correct, Mr Ng is a billion-dollar man – you can’t take it with you goes the old saying – so it would be great to see Ireland’s latest Classic-winning trainer get the support he has now earned.

A positive mention must also go to jockey Shane Foley who last season parted ways with trainer Michael Halford, a man who he had worked with for 12 years. Foley was said to be disappointed with their relationship coming to an end, but remained positive with a great perspective, saying at the time, “I am disappointed, but there are loads of lads out there a lot worse off than me”.

MERCHANT TEES UP HARRY CLASH AND REDKIRK REVENGE

Former Australian racer MERCHANT NAVY made his first appearance for Aidan O’Brien in Saturday’s Group 2 Greenlands Stakes at The Curragh and made a serious statement in victory with regards the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot.

Trained Down Under by Aaron Purcell before being bought in partnership by Coolmore, there was surprisingly little hype about Group 1-winning sprinter coming into the race. Priced up 7/2 overnight, the son of Fastnet Rock went off 9/2 before readily beating Spirit Of Valor, Tasleet and Brando under a penalty. The form looks rock-solid.

What should scare his potential rivals going to Ascot however, is Aidan O’Brien couldn’t have been any more negative on his chances of winning the Greenlands, and yet he ran to a good level in a useful time. Speaking to the Racing Post after the race, O’Brien said, “He did five little canters, that's all he did”.

This now sets up a mouth-watering clash with Godolphin’s Harry Angel and an old Australian foe, Redkirk Warrior, in the Diamond Jubilee. Redkirk Warrior beat Merchant Navy a neck when they clashed in the Lexus Newmarket Handicap in March of this year, giving him 12lb, for all the pair were separated by the whole width of the track. They will race off levels come June however, meaning, on paper at least, Redkirk Warrior needs serious respecting.

The Lexus Newmarket winner looks a big price (13/2) for the Saturday showpiece at Royal Ascot given the collateral form, but will travelling to Great Britain be the great equalizer? Only time will tell.

ROYAL ASCOT JUVENILE FILLIES STEP OUT

Saturday saw three taking victories from two-year-old fillies who are now highly-likely to be Royal Ascot bound.

In the opening maiden at The Curragh, the Aidan O’Brien-trained JUST WONDERFUL defied racecourse experience and fitness to make a winning debut. By Dansili and out of Wading, the Coolmore-owned juvenile is from the further family of Sea The Stars and Galileo. Debut two-year-old winners from these quarters deserve maximum respect going forward and the Albany Stakes at the Royal meeting was touted post-race.

Just over an hour later, another O’Brien juvenile in FAIRYLAND impressed in beating the colts on her second start in the Listed Marble Hill Stakes. Like Just Wonderfully, she also won on debut. By another rarely used sire – by the Coolmore team at least - in Kodiac, you’d have to be impressed by the winner’s ability to travel. The colts couldn’t lead her long enough before she quickened up to win smartly. She’s extremely likable.

Finally, at Goodwood, Mark Johnston unleased NATALIE’S JOYto win by six lengths on debut in a quick time. The daughter of Lope De Vega impressed visually, as you’d expect given the distance of success, while looking green and maybe even idling in front. There should be more to come and while plenty will feel the Albany over six furlongs is likely to be her Royal Ascot race, the Chesham Stakes over a furlong further may suit better. Whichever way connections go, she commands respect.

INDIGESTIBLE AND UNENJOYABLE SATURDAY

Yesterday’s racing should’ve and could’ve been a much more enjoyable day than it turned out to be. There was Classic action on at The Curragh and competitive cards at Chester, Goodwood, Haydock and York in the afternoon. Cartmel also held a National Hunt card, as did Ffos Las in the evening along with more flat action from Salisbury – another evening fixture.

What transpired was an oversaturated afternoon of racing where it was hard to keep up with the good-quality action, racing that deserved much more attention. Race analysis, betting updates, paddock shots and post-race interviews were scant, and that’s not a negative on any broadcaster, but more a reflection on the fixture list which sometimes continues to baffle.

During the height of the Flat season, could yesterday’s card at Cartmel been held later in the evening? Could one of those cards from Chester, Goodwood, Haydock or York switched to the following day, Sunday, where there is no UK flat action taking place, despite it being a bank holiday weekend?

I understand it’s not an easy issue, and yesterday’s overkill was at least a positive in that flat-orientated stable staff got a day off today, Sunday, but it just feels like it could be so much better, especially with this particular weekend falling on a bank holiday in the UK.

Declan Rix
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