Tag Archive for: Ben Coen

Sonnyboyliston lands another knockout blow

Ebor hero Sonnyboyliston claimed Classic glory in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger.

Just over three weeks on from his lucrative handicap success at York, Johnny Murtagh’s charge stepped up to Group One level for the first time under Ben Coen.

With Amhran Na Bhfiann and Colin Keane setting a searching gallop from flag-fall, very few threatened to land a telling blow.

The leader weakened early in the home straight, which left Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment in front before Sonnyboyliston (4-1) arrived on the scene travelling strongly.

Twilight Payment did not give in without a fight, but Coen’s mount kept finding for pressure and was three-quarters of a length to the good passing the post.

Coen said: “I couldn’t have asked it to go any better. We jumped and he got a lovely tow into the race. They turned it into a real staying race and this lad keeps improving and keeps finding a way to win.

“Every day we step him up, he keeps on finding and it’s a day I’ll never forget.

“This is my first proper year as number one jockey to Johnny and we’ve had a few good spins in England, but I really wanted to get this Group One winner.

“For it to be a Classic and for Johnny is unbelievable.”

Ben Coen lifts the Irish St Leger trophy
Ben Coen lifts the Irish St Leger trophy (Brian Lawless/PA)

Murtagh, who won the Irish St Leger as a jockey when dead-heating aboard Jukebox Jury a decade ago, said: “On Friday I was bullish about the weekend and then after yesterday’s runners, I came here thinking we had a little chance.

“He was one of our best runners of the week, he never disappoints and I thought he did very well to win today – it looked like a proper race.

“I was a nervous wreck beforehand, but he had a good position all the way. He comes off the bridle, but I thought from two furlongs down Ben looked confident on him. He got into a bit of a battle, but he never lacks in a battle and I thought Ben was brilliant.

“I want to have runners on Irish Champions Weekend – it’s great to sit down and make entries in these great races.

“This horse has won an Ebor and has now won an Irish St Leger – I can’t say enough about him.”

He added: “Racing is a great game and a great leveller. You can never get too high or too low.

“I’m just the front man to a lot of people who do a lot of hard work. JP Murtagh Racing – I’m so proud of everybody.

“It means a lot to win a Classic at your local track.”

Asked whether the Melbourne Cup could be on the agenda, Murtagh said: “I don’t know. I think it will take a fair offer to take him away from the owners now.

“But it is £2.5million. Maybe not this year as he’s only four, but maybe he could end up down there for us sometime.”

Wren’s Breath is impressive at Naas

Wren’s Breath showed an impressive turn of foot to come from last to first and win the Yeomanstown Stud Irish EBF Stakes at Naas.

Henry de Bromhead’s three-year-old filly, who is blind in one eye, was second on her debut just 11 days earlier yet overcame her inexperience in superb style to claim this Listed prize over six furlongs in the hands of Gary Carroll.

The field split into groups from the start, with Dancin Inthestreet leading on the far side and More Beautiful prominent nearer the stands.

Wren’s Breath (17-2) was in the nearside group but was last of all with two furlongs to runs as the 13-strong field stretched out across the entire course.

The daughter of Elzaam hit top gear as they met the rising ground, and finished so strongly she was three-quarters of a length ahead of More Beautiful at the line – with favourite Teresa Mendoza two lengths away in third.

Carroll said: “She did that nicely. It was a big ask for her second run in a Listed race.

“She’s a filly that is blind in one eye – and when I was behind horses, till halfway, I wasn’t going anywhere.

“I’d say her spatial awareness with one eye is not great. But when I got out and got a bit of daylight she picked up very well and got to the line strong.

“She’s a nice filly – (and) there is more black-type to be got with her. I’d say she’ll learn to sprint, sharpen up, and make into a nice filly.”

Ladies Church ran out a ready winner of the Arqana Irish EBF Marwell Stakes, for trainer Johnny Murtagh.

The daughter of Churchill got off the mark on her second start at Tipperary three weeks ago, and stepped up on that effort to stamp her authority in this Listed contest over five furlongs.

Karl Burke’s British raider Sophie’s Star ploughed a lone furrow on the near side from the start, with the other five runners staying towards the centre of the course.

Pennine Hills took those along, but Ladies Church travelled well behind her before being unleashed by Ben Coen. The 3-1 chance asserted in the final furlong to score by two and a quarter lengths from Pennine Hills. Sophie’s Star stuck on to claim third place.

Coen said: “She was very good. Mark (Dobbin) is a new owner, and I’m delighted to get one for him – he’s invested a lot into Irish racing.

“She’s improved again from Tipperary. I think she’ll get six and I like her – I think she’s smart.

“She picked up, then idled a bit when she got there. I think she’s good – and she can only get better as well.”

Recurrent Dream made a bright start to his career with a smooth success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden – which opened the evening card.

Produced on the outside to challenge, the 13-8 favourite led half a furlong from home in the hands of Colin Keane to score by a length and three-quarters from Gwan So, for trainer Ger Lyons.

Shane Lyons, assistant to his brother, said: “We’re absolutely delighted with that.

“Vincent (Gaul, owner) had his full-brother Indicative Vote last year, and he’s also by Elzaam. We’ve been very lucky with Elzaam, and so has Vincent.

“He ran in this race to get him ready for the Ballyhane Stakes (at Naas on August 2). The way he did it there, he’s going the right way.

“He’s a lovely horse – we thought the trip would be below his best today, and he would lack experience, but he showed he’s a nice horse.

“He won with his ears pricked. He’s a big baby, and there is a lot of improvement in him. We look forward to getting him home now and see how much he improves.”

Urban Beat hits right note in Rockingham Handicap

Urban Beat defied top weight and a seemingly unfavourable draw to win the €100,000 Paddy Power Rockingham Handicap at the Curragh.

Johnny Murtagh’s charge was the class act of the race being a Group Three winner at Dundalk in October, but had been below that level of form in three outings this term.

Sent off a 9-1 chance under Ben Coen – still on the crest of a wave following his Royal Ascot win aboard Murtagh’s Create Belief – the six-year-old was one of only three runners to keep to the near side rail.

Coen was keen to grab the initiative and it appeared that he never relinquished it, as two lengths up with two furlongs to run Urban Beat kept to his task willingly and was never challenged.

On the far side there were a host in with chances, with Master Matt coming out best, but two lengths behind the winner. Jungle Jane was third.

“We said we’d let him bowl along, in handicap company,” said Coen.

“He jumped, pinged the gates, travelled with me and quickened up from two down.

“He got a bit lonely in the last 50 yards, but that’s expected as it’s a lonely place when you are in front that long.

“He had to be hardy and he was. I’m delighted as he’s a deadly horse, everyone loves him in the yard so it’s nice to get his head in front.”

Atomic Jones (striped cap) comes out on top in a blanket finish
Atomic Jones (striped cap) comes out on top in a blanket finish (PA Wire)

Ger Lyons trained another first-time-out juvenile winner when Atomic Jones (11-2) prevailed in a blanket finish to the Barronstown Stud Irish EBF (C&G) Maiden.

The result may have been different, however, if Shane Crosse had managed to find racing room a stride earlier on Joseph O’Brien’s Point Gellibrand, who was all dressed up with nowhere to go for most of the final furlong.

As soon as he got out Point Gellibrand flew, but failed by a short head with Shark Bay just a nose away in third.

“We’re very happy with him, he’s a big raw horse and he came here to have a day out and to improve,” said assistant trainer Shane Lyons.

“Obviously he has ability to be able to do that. Colin (Keane) said he loved the ground and he’ll be a lovely horse over a trip next year.

“He’s a fine big horse and like one of ours he will improve so we’ll take it from there.”

Leigh Roche excelled on Michael O’Callaghan’s Fastnet Crown (13-2) in the Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes Handicap.

Fastnet Crown (right) and Leigh Roche arrived late on the scene
Fastnet Crown (right) and Leigh Roche arrived late on the scene (PA Wire)

Last in the early stages on the near side, Roche managed to make his way over to the far-side group before coming clear to beat Goodnight Girl by three-quarters of a length.

“He’s so lazy throughout the race that you are always on the back foot,” said Roche.

“I just got there and luckily enough I had something to aim at all the way up the straight.

“He did it well, he shows plenty of ability at home but he just throws it away in the first half of races. It takes him three furlongs to get going and when he gets going he motors home. He was good today.”

Effernock Fizz caused a 22-1 shock in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Ragusa” Handicap to provide trainer Katy Brown and Niall McCullagh with a winner.

Effernock Fizz made all the running to land a big pot
Effernock Fizz made all the running to land a big pot (PA Wire)

“She’s been a revelation for us,” said Brown.

“She’s run in a nice handicap here for the past two years and I said to myself ‘there’s no group horse in it this year to beat her’ as last year she was beaten by Mighty Blue and the year before by Kastasa.

“She’s entered for the Grade Three Grimes Hurdle on Thursday and we’ll see how she comes out of this. She was fourth in it last year and if she’s OK she’ll go for it again.”

On a day when both Aidan and Joseph O’Brien saddled winners, Donnacha made sure he did not leave empty handed when Emporio (15-8 favourite) got off the mark in the Finlay Volvo Irish EBF Median Auction Maiden.

Murtagh full of Derby confidence in rising star Coen

Johnny Murtagh has full faith in Ben Coen as the teenager prepares for the biggest ride of his short career to date on Earlswood in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

Coen could hardly be heading to the Curragh at a better time, having ridden Murtagh’s Create Belief to victory in the Sandringham Stakes at Royal Ascot last week.

In former multiple Classic-winning jockey Murtagh, the 19-year-old could have no better tutor – but the Kildare trainer admits Coen is far ahead of where he was at the same stage of their respective careers.

“I keep telling him he’s much better than Johnny Murtagh was at 19,” he said.

“He’s much cooler, he’s much calmer and he’s much more on the ball.

“He’s a very nice fella, he rides very well. That was his first time on the big stage at Ascot last week, and he seemed to thrive on it. That’s what you have to do when you are under pressure.

“I think he’s the real deal. I keep forgetting he’s only 19 – and he’s only going to get better, riding these good horses in these big races.”

Earlswood booked his ticket for the Derby on Saturday by winning the Gallinule Stakes, and Murtagh expects the step up to a mile and a half to bring out even more improvement on his return to the Curragh.

Earlswood was impressive in the Gallinule
Earlswood was impressive in the Gallinule (PA Wire)

He added: “You have to stay to win at the Curragh, the last three furlongs are a long way home – it’s fair though, (and) the best horse usually wins.

“Ballydoyle normally run four or five every year and make sure it’s a test. I think our horse will get the trip well.

“The favourite (High Definition) looks like he’ll improve for York, but I think the Epsom Derby was a very good race this year. It was a properly run race, and there didn’t look to be many hard-luck stories.

“High Definition will have to be everything they say he is, and he’ll have to improve a good deal from York.

“The Irish Derby is open – and it’s strong.”

Create Belief first Royal Ascot winner for Johnny Murtagh as trainer

Johnny Murtagh celebrated his first winner as a trainer at Royal Ascot when Create Belief turned the Sandringham Stakes into a rout.

Murtagh enjoyed many memorable days in the saddle at the meeting – but very few will have given him as much satisfaction as this victory.

Well-backed when the torrential rain hit overnight, Create Belief was sent off a 6-1 chance in a field that saw nine non-runners due to the worsening conditions.

Ridden by Ben Coen – another to be celebrating a first Royal Ascot winner – Create Belief put the race to bed a long way out.

She cruised into the lead with a furlong and a half to run and despite being put up 10lb for a win in a big handicap at the Curragh last time out, she sprinted clear.

Sir Michael Stoute’s 5-1 favourite Samoot was the only filly to give any sort of chase, but she had no answer and was beaten five and a half lengths. Messidor was third, with She Do fourth.

Coen sported the colours of the RacehorseClub, who were second in the Grand National with Balko Des Flos.

The rider said: “It’s a huge win and a great feeling to be part of it. She travelled so easily and loved the ground. You can ride her any way you want, she’s such an uncomplicated filly.

“I couldn’t ask for a better mentor than Johnny. It’s my first time here and it’s a big help having someone like him behind me.”

Create Belief is set to step up in class now
Create Belief is set to step up in class now (Steven Paston/PA)

Murtagh was delighted to secure his inaugural winner at the showpiece fixture and said: “It feels extremely special. It’s a dream come true. I’m very proud of my family and team. It’s much tougher this training game as you are with them all the time. But the staff have put in so much hard work.

“Royal Ascot is the best week of the year, it’s very special, it’s magical and to come back and train a winner now after all those successes as a jockey, I’m just absolutely thrilled.

“It was not ideal for my filly with an 8lb penalty, but when the rain came it really helped her chances.

“She’s progressing and hopefully she can keep going now. She’s on the up and hopefully she can go on now and be competitive in Group races.

“We always thought she was a stakes filly in the making and she has been working well, so it wasn’t a surprise, maybe how easy she won, but I wasn’t surprised she won today.”

Quickthorn was a comfortable winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes
Quickthorn was a comfortable winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (David Davies/PA)

Oisin Murphy secured his second win of the day, and his fourth at the meeting, as 7-2 favourite Quickthorn relished the conditions in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes.

Murphy settled on the heels of the pacesetting Zabeel Champion and was perfectly placed to make his challenge as the field turned for home.

Hollie Doyle shot up the inside rail on last year’s victor Scarlet Dragon, while Raymond Tusk and Mirann tried to take a hand in the finish, but Murphy had plenty up his sleeve on the Hughie Morrison-trained Quickthorn, who stretched clear in the final furlong.

Raymond Tusk was a length and a half back in second, with the gutsy Zabeel Champion beaten three-quarters of a length in third.

Morrison said: “I’m so relieved the meeting was on.

“This horse didn’t come to hand quickly – he was leggy and weak and came back a bit sore last year. But when he did a bit of work with a filly called Urban Artist and then she came second in a Group Three, my spirits soared.

“We’ve won this four times now. It’s our sort of race.”

Significantly (red silks, centre right) on his way to winning the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes
Significantly (red silks, centre right) on his way to winning the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes (David Davies/PA)

Clifford Lee rode his first Royal Ascot winner as the Karl Burke-trained Significantly just held on in the closing Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes.

Sent off a 10-1 shot, Significantly had posted an eyecatching piece of form last time in finishing second to Dragon Symbol, who was first past the post in the Commonwealth Cup before being demoted to second earlier in the afternoon.

Lee set sail for home with a couple of furlongs to run on Significantly and although he tired at the finish in the heavy ground, he fended off the late burst of Boomshalaa.

Burke said: “It’s been the plan for a while and to be fair it was Jeff Laughton’s (co-owner) plan. He hatched it after we were second to Dragon Symbol at Hamilton.

“We thought then we would come here off a mark of 92. He’s a 100-plus horse all day long for me. He’s always been a good work horse, but he’s just been a bit frustrating. We’ve learnt how to ride him now and he’s better off rolling along.

“I’m delighted for Clifford to get his first Royal Ascot winner. He’s in the yard six or even seven days a week and works hard. He’s very strong and powerful in a finish.”

Derby options for Earlswood following Gallinule success

Earlswood emerged as a potential Derby contender after claiming victory in the Heider Family Stables Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh.

The Pivotal colt joined Johnny Murtagh following the retirement of former trainer John Oxx, since when he had opened his account at Navan before finishing third in the Dee Stakes at Chester.

Stepping up to Group Three level, the three-year-old travelled strongly in the hands of Ben Coen for much of the 10-furlong contest.

Once asked to extend, the 11-2 winner soon settled matters and came home with a length and three-quarters in hand over Arturo Toscanini.

Betfair halved his odds to 33-1 for the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on June 5.

Murtagh said: “He’s entered at Epsom, but there is free entry into the Irish Derby after winning this race so that’s another option.

“I’ll talk with the owner and we’ll decide what to do.”

Coen was delighted to ride his first Group-race winner of the season.

“He’s good and hardy. Chester was probably a bit tight for him the last day. It’s a big galloping track here and he loved the ground,” said the jockey.

“It was great to get a horse like that into the yard after John Oxx retired and it’s brilliant to get a new owner into the yard as well.”

Seamie Heffernan was banned for six days for using his whip with excessive frequency aboard fifth-placed Matchless.

Magic finishes with flourish to claim Committed prize

Measure Of Magic got up close home to claim Listed honours in the Committed Stakes at Navan.

The Johnny Murtagh-trained filly was produced with a determined challenge by Ben Coen to collar Logo Hunter.

Coen kept Measure Of Magic off the early pace set by Erosandpsyche, with Sister Rosetta close up, before making his move.

Logo Hunter and the 6-5 favourite Lipizzaner looked like fighting out the finish, but Measure Of Magic (11-2) responded to Coen’s urgings to go and land the spoils by three-quarters of a length.

Runner-up Logo Hunter was a length and a half ahead of Lipizzaner.

Coen said: “She only got five last year, but she’s strengthened up from two to three well.

“I rode her to get the trip, she quickened up well for me, but she didn’t do much when she got there.

“She’s a nice filly, a proper sprinter with loads of speed. Five or six, it doesn’t matter to her as she’s strong enough now to stay six.

“She loves the ground, she’s a good-moving filly. Hopefully she’ll improve again off the back of that.”

Masseto put up a gutsy performance when making a wining debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

Gavin Ryan brought Masseto (4-1) with a sweeping run in the centre of the course and Donnacha O’Brien’s youngster knuckled down in the closing stages to get the better of Celtic Times by half a length.

The pair pulled four and three-quarter lengths clear of Butterfly Island in third.

Amalfi Coast, the 13-8 favourite, could not get a run at a crucial stage of the race but stayed on well to take fifth place.

Masseto could head for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

O’Brien said: “I thought he was very good because he was very green. He broke slow and travelled in snatches.

“When he quickened up, it looked like he passed half the field in half a furlong and then he looked like he idled when he got there. He’s obviously got plenty of talent.

“Looking at that, you’d have to hope he’s an Ascot two-year-old. On paper it looked like a good race, I know dad (Aidan) liked his and (brother) Joseph liked his. There were plenty of other nice pedigrees in there.

“I suppose you’d have to look towards the Coventry. He was very green, we’ll see how he comes out of it, then have a look and see what suits him. I don’t think it would be any harm if there was another race beforehand.

“The first two-year-olds I ran were the ones I actually liked most, nearly, but maybe I ran them a bit early and they’ll be better as they come along.

“The last two I’ve run have been impressive, so maybe they are just coming.”

Independent Missy (5-1) got on top in the last 100 yards to take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies & Mares Handicap.

Ronan Whelan brought Tracey Collins’ five-year-old with a well-timed challenge to go on and win by half a length from Miss Molly T.

Collins said: “I’m delighted. She’s probably been a little bit disappointing for us because we expected more of her early on.

“She’s come well in her coat and was pleasing us, so we decided to come here as it was a fillies’ handicap.

“Ronan’s given her a lovely ride and she came off the pace well, so she probably just needs a very strong run race.

“She was only beaten a few lengths in some good races. She’s probably a filly that lacked confidence and hopefully she can go forward from here.”

Gordon Bennett (13-2) ran out a ready winner of the Kilberry Apprentice Handicap.

Hitting the front a furlong out, Richard Brabazon’s three-year-old galloped on strongly for Nathan Crosse to score by a length and a half from The Peckhampouncer.

“That was a bit of excitement at the start of the season for us,” said Brabazon.

“We always thought he was a lovely horse, but he’s a horse that gets himself a bit upset and he was running too free in his maidens last year.

“He was just doing it the wrong way around, showing tons of speed and then not getting home.

“I said to Nathan today ‘just do one thing, try to get cover and then take it from there’. He did it beautifully and the horse settled for him. I was nearly more thrilled about that than winning because looking to the future, we can manage him a bit now.
“I think he’s a nice horse for the future. Physically and mentally we are only starting.”