Kalaxana delighted favourite-backers with a clear-cut success in the Lisburn Bowl Irish EBF Ulster Oaks at Down Royal.
Following consecutive runner-up finishes at Dundalk and Naas, Mick Halford’s filly was not winning out of turn when striking gold at Gowran earlier this month and was a well-backed 6-4 favourite to follow up in this 40,000 euro handicap.
She gave her supporters a fright after fluffing the start, but soon recovered to track the pacesetting Bella Figura and quickened up to lead rounding the home turn under Chris Hayes.
Active Approach went in pursuit soon after, but Kalaxana never looked in serious danger of being caught and was good value for the official winning margin of two and three-quarter lengths.
Halford said: “She’s a big, improving filly – loads of size and scope to her there. We thought in her homework she would step forward from her Gowran win and it looks like she has.
“She is so straightforward in her temperament and you can ride her any way you like. She’s a nice filly and she’s going the right way.
“We’ve always liked her a lot and it has just taken her a while to get there. Once the fillies get the sun on their back and they start winning their confidence comes on.
“We’ll certainly be stepping her up (in class). She’s so relaxed you would think she could go any trip.
“She doesn’t lack for a bit of pace either. Chris just said she was idling a bit there in front but once he picked her up she was in command.”
Kafu came forward from his debut run at the Curragh to justify favouritism in the Rainbow Communications Maiden for Ger Lyons and Colin Keane, beating Rangefield Express by two and a quarter lengths.
Keane said of the 11-8 market leader: “He’s after sharpening up a lot since the last day. He’s a horse we actually thought a bit of so hopefully he can go forward now and progress.
“We were drawn out (wide) a little bit, but the run under his belt helped.”
Eddie Lynam landed the Louis Roederer Handicap for the third year in a row, this time courtesy of Soffia (3-1).
Winning jockey Robbie Downey said: “The horses are starting to hit form now so hopefully that’s the first of a couple of winners.
“I thought for the horses she beat in the Curragh it was probably a high enough mark, but she coped with it. She was even a little bit green.”
Goodnite Irina (5-2) was a determined winner of the Value Cabs Handicap for Pat Martin and Killian Leonard.
Leonard said: “I was watching the replay of Johnny’s horse (Murtagh, Admirality) in Roscommon and I thought if I hassled him early enough he might lie down and it proved that way.
“I knew I had him covered two down. She wasn’t doing a whole lot when I got there, but she’s very genuine.”
Declan McDonogh rode the last two winners of the afternoon.
Last Garrison was a 20-1 winner of the Down Royal Handicap for trainer Mark McNiff, while the Dermot Weld-trained Manzil obliged at 7-2 in the concluding Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Maiden.
McDonogh said of the latter: “He jumped and he travelled and the last day in Navan he was off it. He probably learned a good bit from Navan as he was finishing very well that day.
“The extra couple of furlongs was a big help. You couldn’t question his attitude, he saw them off one by one.”