Michael Halford’s Playa Del Puente broke Aidan O’Brien’s stranglehold on the BetVictor Patton Stakes as he recorded his third successive Dundalk victory.
Playa Del Puente, well-backed into 11-4 against O’Brien’s uneasy 6-4 favourite Western Australia, raced in third until pouncing late in the Listed mile contest – which is one of the few European qualifiers for the Kentucky Derby.
Western Australia chased Colfer Me into the straight and was then marginally impeded a furlong out as the long-time leader leant left into him. But Playa Del Puente, under Ronan Whelan, was a deserved and convincing half-length winner – following up victories at the course in October and December.
Champion trainer O’Brien, who fielded three of the eight runners, had won all three previous editions – supplying the first three home last year, with 2018 victor Mendelssohn going on to take the UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup night.
The best O’Brien could manage this time, however, was the runner-up spot achieved by Western Australia – following his third to stablemate Magna Grecia in last year’s Group One Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.
O’Brien’s son Joseph saddled Numerian to stay on into third – a further one and three quarter lengths back – but the fourth running of the Patton belonged to Halford’s Playa Del Puente.
The trainer explained the colt’s future lies overseas, after his four career starts to date in Ireland, with his Hong Kong-based owner Huang Kai Wen.
“We sold him after his first run, and he kindly left him with us,” said Halford.
“He’s going to Hong Kong now, and will probably travel out in May.
“That was always the plan. They will take their time with him, and I’d imagine they want him for the Hong Kong Derby.”
Halford is confident Playa Del Puente will continue to progress, wherever he runs.
“He’s a real smart horse,” he added.
“He’s a bit fresh in himself and raced a bit keen early on – (but) he’s on the improve the whole time, and we are very grateful to have kept him.
“He’s still quite light, and there is plenty to come from him. He has a big heart and a big engine.”