Still Standing claimed his fifth victory from just eight career starts with a comprehensive success in the Devoy Stakes at Naas.
A field of eight runners went to post for the 10-furlong Listed contest, including Aidan O’Brien’s one-time Classic contender Amedeo Modigliani – who had been sidelined by injury since winning at the 2017 Galway Festival.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Still Standing rounded off his 2018 campaign with a handicap win at Fairyhouse and was the marginal favourite at 9-4 to make a winning return – with Amedeo Modigliani and Hazel Bay next in the betting, both at 11-4.
Amedeo Modigliani travelled well for a long way, but the lack of a recent run told late on.
Still Standing, on the other hand, always looked in control under Harrington’s newly-appointed stable jockey Shane Foley – and was good value for the winning margin of three and a half lengths.
Hazel Bay beat Amedeo Modigliani to the runner-up spot.
Harrington said: “He just loves that ground. He still won last year on ground he hated. He hasn’t really had that ground since he won here as a two-year-old.
“He’s won a Listed race now, and he’ll come back here for the Alleged Stakes.
“He’s already won over a mile and three, and we’d be quite happy to step up to a mile and a half.”
Although out of luck with Amedeo Modigliani, O’Brien did get on the winner’s board on the opening day of the season – with his son and champion jockey Donnacha steering 8-1 shot Never No More to victory in the Naas Racecourse Business Club Madrid Handicap.
Black Magic Woman loomed up travelling ominously well in the straight, but Never No More eventually wore her down and went on to score readily by three and three-quarter lengths.
O’Brien senior said: “We weren’t sure whether to stick at six furlongs, but Donnacha felt he got the seven well.
“We might look at the seven-furlong (Guineas) Trial in Leopardstown. He galloped out well.”
Red Epaulette made a winning debut in the first race of the new season – the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.
A field of 11 unraced juveniles went to post for the five-furlong contest, and Red Epaulette was prominent in the market at 7-2.
Michael O’Callaghan’s charge travelled strongly in the hands of stable jockey Leigh Roche, and impressively stretched three and three-quarter lengths clear of eventual runner-up Value Chain.
O’Callaghan said: “He’s a nice two-year-old, and in the last month he just showed me to be one of the more mature two-year-olds at home. We have a nice bunch of them, and I’d say there is a massive amount of improvement to come from him.
“Leigh said the ground was quite holding, but his class got him through it. We might go for a winners’ race in a couple of weeks.”
Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning combined to land the next two races on the card, with 20-1 shot Western Dawn opening his account in the the Kildare Post & Kildare Now Maiden and 16-1 chance Solar Wave scoring in the Naas Racecourse Launches The 2019 Irish Flat Season Handicap.
Castletownshend – a rare Flat ride for Ruby Walsh – finished third behind Western Dawn.
“He (Western Dawn) was a bit green the first time and has progressed over the winter. He’ll stay further and shouldn’t have any problem getting a mile,” said Bolger.
“Solar Wave has only one eye, and that probably doesn’t help, but when everything falls right for her she’s a nice type of filly.”
Wargrave was a 100-30 winner of the concluding Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden for trainer Fozzy Stack and jockey Chris Hayes.