Hit The Bid recorded a deserved Group Three success in the Al Basti Equiworld Mercury Stakes at Dundalk.
Busy in Dubai in the spring, the Darren Bunyan-trained four-year-old was not beaten far by Havana Grey on Irish Champions Weekend and was going one place better in this five-furlong affair than 12 months ago, when finding Take Cover just a neck too good.
He struck the front around a furlong and a half out, and while favourite Lost Treasure came with his customary late charge, Chris Hayes’ mount held on well, with half a length to spare over Encore D’or. Lost Treasure was another short head back in third.
Bunyan said of his 4-1 chance: “We’re delighted with him. His three runs this year, since he came back from Dubai, the ground has gone on him every time.
“Chris even said he took a blow on him there at the furlong pole, so there should be a lot of improvement to come in him.
“We’ve always believed he’s a proper horse. We’ll look at Hong Kong later on with him and he’ll be back to Dubai for the winter.
“We’ll bring him back a little bit quicker next year. Hopefully he’ll start off in the Temple Stakes (at Haydock), and the King’s Stand (at Royal Ascot) will be his early-season target.
“This year he needed a break at that time of the year (after Dubai) because he would have been in training for two years at the end of this year had we not given him the break.
“There is a big international campaign for him and with that in mind we gave him the break. He’s come back and he’s thrived for it.”
He went on: “This year, the Tipperary run he needed fitness-wise to leave him right for the Flying Five.
“I walked the track twice the night before the Flying Five and he would have just got away with the ground, but it rained that night and the ground was gone.
“It was a hell of a run to be beaten a length and a neck in a Group One when he didn’t handle the ground. It’s a much bigger run than it might look, as good as run as it was.
“The Abbaye was was just a washout. He was there and there was no point not getting a blow into him when we had gone that far.
“It was all with this in mind and if it had been closer to home I wouldn’t have run him.
“I’ve no doubts this horse will win a Group One before he is finished. That’s all I’m ever dreaming about with any horse, but this lad can make it reality, which is the difference.
“He could easily have a second career (at stud), there is no reason to think he wouldn’t. He’s a gorgeous horse to look at and you won’t get a better-looking horse, no matter where you go.
“He has a pedigree behind him and that’s his second Group Three, he’s won a Listed race, won a big handicap in Dubai and was third in a Group Two in Dubai as well. He’s building it up there.
“It’s great to have a horse like him around the place and the syndicate are a fabulous bunch of lads as well. They’ve been very lucky, but they deserve the luck. As owners go, you couldn’t get better.”
He added: “I’d just like to thank Mr Al Basti as well for his very generous sponsorship. I met him in Dubai and he’s an absolute gentleman. I’m delighted to be able to win the race that he sponsored.”