Investec Oaks favourite Pink Dogwood made a winning reappearance with a hard-fought success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Salsabil Stakes at Navan.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien fired a three-pronged assault on the Listed contest, with Pink Dogwood very much the first string under Ryan Moore.
After successive runner-up finishes at the Curragh last summer, the daughter of Camelot made it third time lucky at Gowran Park before being stepped up to Group One level in the Prix Marcel Boussac at ParisLongchamp.
She was far from disgraced in finishing fifth in France – beaten just a length and a half – and was the 4-5 favourite for this 10-furlong Listed contest on her seasonal bow.
Odds-on backers were made to sweat, with Noel Meade’s recent Clonmel scorer Encapsulation refusing to go down without a fight, but Pink Dogwood eventually got the better of the argument by half a length.
The Ballydoyle inmate is a best priced 5-1 market leader for the Oaks at Epsom on May 31.
O’Brien said: “She was just ready to start off and you couldn’t be happier with her.
“The plan was always that we would go to the Oaks and whether she will have a run or not before then, I’m not sure.
“It’s possible, but not definite, that she will go straight there.”
“She’s a lovely mover and would prefer better (ground), I would imagine.”
O’Brien and Moore went on to complete a double with Blenheim Palace (5-1) in the BetVictor Proudly Sponsoring Irish Racing Handicap.
The Ger Lyons-trained Inverleigh was a decisive winner of the Listed Committed Stakes.
Successful on his racecourse debut at Leopardstown last August, the Excelebration colt went on to be placed at Listed level in the Blenheim Stakes at Fairyhouse and Star Appeal Stakes at Dundalk.
Making his first appearance since October, Inverleigh was a 6-1 shot in the hands of Donagh O’Connor and was good value for the winning margin of a length and three-quarters over 5-2 favourite The Irish Rover.
Lyons said: “He shows nothing at home and neither does the filly (Chicago May, finished sixth), but the filly is very difficult.
“They were literally going through the motions at home and today was about blowing the cobwebs away and seeing where it lands, no expectations. Thankfully he has done it well and it’s a nice surprise.
“We might have a little go at seven (furlongs) somewhere along the line.
“The filly has run well and will improve for it and go for a fillies’ race next week.
“It’s nice for Donagh (O’Connor). He rides out for us once a week and has plenty of ability and that’s his first stakes win in his second ride in a stakes race.”
Back To Brussels made a winning debut in the BetVictor Bet 5 Euros Get 30 Euros Offer Irish EBF Fillies Maiden.
With Aidan O’Brien’s Tango a significant non-runner, a wide-open field of 12 runners went to post and it was Fozzy Stack’s 6-1 shot Back To Brussels who came out on top under Chris Hayes – seeing off Feminista by three-quarters of a length.
Stack said: “She has been going nicely at home. She hasn’t been away anywhere, but she quickened up well and she did it well.
“I suppose Naas or the Marble Hill would be the logical place to go with her. She could take in either of those races and then go to Royal Ascot or, alternatively, go straight to Ascot.”
Donal Kinsella’s grey Handsome Maverick (12-1) came from last to first to land the spoils in the Navan Welcomes Owners Today Apprentice Handicap – providing 17-year-old 7lb claimer John Shinnick with his first winner.
Kinsella said: “Ruaidhri Tierney (agent) said that this lad (Shinnick) is very good and that Ger Lyons considers him to be decent. I said ‘on your word and on Ger Lyons’ word I will try him’. It was well worthwhile.
“Please God, you’ll see this week tomorrow week in the Curragh – I think they have a 45-70 over six (furlongs), which will suit him again.”
Trainer Edward O’Grady and jockey Declan McDonogh combined to win the concluding Come To The Family Day May 18th Handicap, with 25-1 shot Venezia getting the better of a thrilling duel with Strange Notions.