Outsider White Birch surprises Ballysax rivals

White Birch was all heart to triumph as the outsider in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown.

The grey son of Ulysses was a 22-1 chance on his seasonal debut having run twice previously, finishing fifth in a Naas maiden and then landing a Dundalk contest in November.

Trained by John Murphy and ridden by Shane Foley, the three-year-old progressed from last to first in the final two furlongs and was then hindered significantly when Aidan O’Brien’s Alexandroupolis, the favourite, lurched right on the run to the line.

Recovering from the wobble to rally again, White Birch locked horns with Joseph O’Brien’s Up And Under and was headed at the half-furlong pole before battling back to score by half a length.

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George Murphy, assistant trainer to his father, said: “I’m absolutely delighted with that. He relaxed lovely early on and quickened up really well.

White Birch and Shane Foley
White Birch and Shane Foley (Damien Storan/PA)

“He got a good bump about a furlong down but he’s a very honest horse and stayed lengthening the whole way to the line.

“We are delighted with that and he could be very good. He’s done what we always thought he could do.

“We’ll have a chat now with the owners and make a decision on where we are going to go. We said we would learn a lot today going up to a mile and a quarter on this ground and it seemed no issue to him.

“He’s hasn’t any Classic entries but he could get some yet! We’ll see how he comes out of this and make a plan from there.

“He had a lovely run first time out in Naas on heavy ground, so we thought he’d get through it today all right. He floated around Dundalk over seven (furlongs) and showed a lot of speed, so he could be very versatile ground wise and clearly going a mile and quarter was no issue either.

“He could be a very exciting horse.”

Foley added: “It wasn’t necessarily a surprise. I’ve ridden him in his work over the last couple of weeks and I’ve really liked him. He’s a gorgeous horse. George (Murphy) was worried about coming here and going that trip, but I think you could go a mile and a half with him.

“It was a proper race, they went a proper gallop and it never let up. He’s a nice horse.

“I knew down around the bottom bend that I was getting to them and he actually picked up better than I expected and I ended up getting there a little bit too soon. He really is a nice horse.

“I actually fancied him coming here and then he was the outsider of the whole field. On his homework, he was working like a very nice horse. I was riding him to run well and it all worked out.”

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