In a season in which Johnny Murtagh can do little wrong, New Emerald Bay claimed a unique slice of racing history for the in-form yard in Punchestown’s first Flat contest for almost 18 years.
Danny Sheehy, riding with his 5lb claim, had the winner off the pace before pouncing in the final furlong of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden for juveniles which opened the eight-race card.
New Emerald Bay then easily outspeeded runner-up Giuliana and favourite Emphatic Answer, by three-quarters of a length and half a length.
After her 7-2 success, at the second attempt, winning jockey Sheehy said: “She ran a cracker the first day (third at Naas a month ago), and hit the line well despite being green. She’s come on a lot at home and improved today.
“She was still a bit green today when I asked her, and the penny is just starting to drop. She’s a nice filly to look forward to.
“We went a steady enough gallop, and I had a lovely position. She travelled well, and there is no doubt that she will get further in time. She handled the ground well.
“The stable is flying and there is a great atmosphere around the yard.”
Joseph O’Brien was out of luck with Emphatic Answer – but soon set the record straight with a quick double in the Flat Racing Back In Town Race and then the Thank You Owners For Supporting This Town Maiden, through respective favourites Fame And Acclaim (8-13) and Liffey River (10-11).
Three non-runners, all on account of the rain-softened ground, left only three for Fame And Acclaim to beat – but he had to be tenacious to do so.
He helped to force the pace, was then headed at the furlong pole by Leopardstown maiden winner Eldama and battled back to seal the deal by three-quarters of a length under Declan McDonogh.
Assistant trainer Brendan Powell said: “He had to fight for it and fought well.
“The second is a nice filly – (and) there is a decent race in him somewhere along the line, because he’s improving all the time.
“He got through the ground well, and goes on good as well. He’ll even stay further in time.”
Shane Crosse and Liffey River had the same margin to spare over long-priced debutant Agrimony – but theirs was a much easier success, always going well and moving clear before holding on comfortably to a slightly diminished advantage.
Powell said: “In a slowly-run race, it was the best place to be – he kicked and galloped the whole way.
“He’s a big strong horse, and a nice one going forward.”
O’Brien was well out of the money as Sheila Lavery’s Ultra Pride (6-1) stayed on best in the More Than A One Horse Town Handicap – but he was back in business with 3-1 shot Sagrada Familia, Mikey Sheehy on board the three-and-a-half-length winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden for three-year-olds and their elders.
It was his father Aidan who then struck when the well-bred Holy Roman Empress broke her duck, at the expense of O’Brien junior and Zofar Zogood in a two-length second, as Seamie Heffernan got the 14-1 chance home in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Handicap.