The Ger Lyons-trained Who’s Steph emphatically landed the odds in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Victor McCalmont Memorial Stakes at Gowran.
Colin Keane decided to take the initiative on George Strawbridge’s filly, and was soon into an early lead on the grey.
Sent off at the prohibitive price of 2-7 in this Listed event, Who’s Steph was also strongly fancied for the Irish 1,000 Guineas last season – and while she only finished in midfield in the Classic, she went close in the Group Two Blandford Stakes after that.
Well clear on the official ratings, Keane kept her closest to the far rail, and Who’s Steph gradually pulled further and further clear – eventually beating Moteo by eight lengths.
Assistant trainer Shane Lyons said: “You’d be very impressed with that. We’re delighted with her.
“Going forward, she is very ground dependent. Mr Strawbridge has been very good to keep her in training with us as a four-year-old, and he’s been very patient.
“She needs cut in the ground, and she won’t be running in all those good races if it’s quick.
“She’ll be even more effective over an extra furlong or two, even further going forward.”
Underfoot conditions are absolutely key, though.
Lyons added: “It’s all ground dependent, and it’s frustrating when you have a lovely filly like that, but Mr Strawbridge has been very good to us and left it to us to find the right races with the right conditions – and there’s no pressure on us.
“One day, it will be justified with her. She’s obviously in the Pretty Polly and the Tattersalls Gold Cup, but she’ll not be going near them if it’s good to firm.
“If it’s yielding like that, or soft, we’d be very confident.”
Who’s Steph was unable to justify favouritism on her seasonal return in a Listed race at Cork last month.
But Lyons said: “Colin said she improved from the first day.
“She was gassy then, and it obviously didn’t help when she got wiped out on the first bend.
“She went down on her knees, and that lit her up because she was fresh for her first run. That was a prep run as well, and today he said she was a different filly.
“She should have won that day, but she did win today, and you’d have to be impressed with the way she did win.
“She got every bit of the trip last time – and if today was a mile-four she’d be running in it, that’s no problem.
“Today we would be worried that it’s a bit short for her, and that’s why we were happy with the way she put it to bed.”