Aidan O’Brien’s Blackbeard needed every yard to come on top in a thrilling finish to the Listed GAIN First Flier Stakes at the Curragh.
Cork winner Crispy Cat attempted to make all in the hands of Leigh Roche for Michael O’Callaghan and refused to lie down when challenged by the eventual winner throughout the closing stages of the five-furlong contest.
However, it was the Ballydoyle colt, sent off the 11-10 favourite, who had his head in front when it mattered most, responding gamely to Ryan Moore’s urgings and showing a most willing attitude to make it two from two.
The son of No Nay Never won in good style at Dundalk on debut and having continued his education here, looks to have booked his ticket to Royal Ascot, for which he was given quotes of 8-1 for the Norfolk Stakes over the minimum trip by Coral, while Betfair went 7-1 from 8-1 for the six-furlong Coventry Stakes.
O’Brien said: “The ground is softer than we thought it was going to be, but he did well to battle back.
“He’ll go on to Ascot for one of the races over five or six. Ryan said he could get six.
“If you can get a couple of runs before Ascot in this country you are very lucky. There are not that many races.”
Twilight Spinner brought up a quickfire double for Joseph O’Brien and rider Shane Crosse when justifying favouritism in the Coolmore Stud Circus Maximus Irish EBF Athasi Stakes.
The daughter of Twilight Son, who was sent off at 2-1, tracked My Holy Fox – the horse that led the small group that raced in the centre of the course – in the early stages of the seven-furlong Group Three contest and shaped like the most likely winner when pulled out into daylight by Crosse passing the two-furlong pole.
Having taken a short while to be fully wound up and hit top gear, she kept on stoutly in the final furlong to draw just over three lengths clear of the front-running Cigamia at the line.
O’Brien – also successful in the Tetrarch Stakes with Buckaroo – said: “It was a good performance. We were thinking of running her in the Greenlands, but she has been shaping as though she was crying out to go up to seven furlongs. You would have to say that probably looks her trip now.
“She handled juice in the ground and it was very good to get a Group win as she was Group-placed. Hopefully she can continue to progress.
“We could look at something like the Maurice de Gheest which is over six and a half and the Foret later in the year.”