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Breeders’ Cup outing an ‘outside possibility’ for Castle Star

A trip to the Breeders’ Cup is considered an “outside possibility” for Castle Star following his narrow defeat in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

A winner at Listed and Group Three level at the Curragh in May, Fozzy Stack’s star juvenile had since finished second in the Railway Stakes and fourth in the Phoenix Stakes on home soil before his trip across the Irish Sea last week.

The son of Starspangledbanner certainly justified his place in Group One company on the Rowley Mile – beaten just half a length into second place by the Richard Fahey-trained Perfect Power.

Stack will assess the youngster’s well being before deciding whether to send him to Del Mar next month or give him a well-earned break.

Reflecting on his Newmarket performance, the trainer said: “He ran a cracker. It’s a bit unfortunate the gaps didn’t open in time, but that’s racing.

“We probably didn’t have as clean a run as the winner. I’m not saying we’d have beaten him.

Fozzy Stack (left) was pleased with Castle Star's performance
Fozzy Stack (left) was pleased with Castle Star’s performance (PA)

“He’s been very consistent all year and he’s put in a career-best on his seventh run of the season.

“The Breeders’ Cup would be an outside possibility, but we’ll just see how he is over the next while.

“If he doesn’t go to America, we’ll put him away and train him towards the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot next season.”

Fozzy Stack eyeing Go Bears Go rematch for Castle Star

Castle Star will have another crack at his Railway Stakes conqueror Go Bears Go in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes on August 8.

Fozzy Stack’s youngster was strongly fancied for the Group Two at the Curragh following a stylish victory in the Marble Hill Stakes on his previous outing.

However, Castle Star was on the back foot after a slow start and despite making up many lengths, he could not catch David Loughnane’s impressive winner and went down by a length and a quarter.

“He’s come out of the race well, importantly, and he’ll probably run in the Phoenix next,” said Stack.

“It’s possible the ground was a bit quick but he fell out of the gate, so he gave away ground at the start.

“He made up a lot of ground but you can’t give good horses like that a 10-length head start. He ran well, though.”

Stack was also out of luck in the Airlie Stud Stakes on Sunday with the filly Cheerupsleepyjean, who went off the evens favourite having finished third in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot.

Cheerupsleepyjean (blue) ran a fine race to be third in the Queen Mary
Cheerupsleepyjean (blue) ran a fine race to be third in the Queen Mary (David Davies/PA)

She found those exertions took a toll, though, and she could only finish third behind Joseph O’Brien’s Velocidad.

“I think she just ran a bit flat,” said Stack.

“It was quite a quick turn around from Ascot and she was just flat.

“There were only a few runners, she got Group Two placed again, which is something.

“There’s a Listed race at Naas over five furlongs next month which could be an option.”

Castle Star poised for Railway action

Castle Star and Royal Ascot runner-up Go Bears Go are among 20 confirmations for the Group Two GAIN Railway Stakes at the Curragh.

Fozzy Stack’s impressive Marble Hill Stakes winner Castle Star appears set to return over course and distance – while David Loughnane’s Go Bears Go, beaten just a head in the Norfolk Stakes last week, has been supplemented for Saturday’s race and is set to move up to six furlongs for the first time.

Potential opposition for both includes four remaining Aidan O’Brien contenders – Amalfi Coast, Cadamosto, The Acropolis and The Entertainer, the first three of whom finished out of the frame in their various Royal Ascot bids.

Donnacha O’Brien’s Masseto, second to Castle Star last month and subsequently a close fourth in the Coventry Stakes at Ascot, may reoppose this weekend.

The unbeaten Dukebox, for Richard Hannon, joins Go Bears Go as a second possible British challenger.

Like his father, Joseph O’Brien supplies four of the provisional home contingent – although the maiden Agartha is declared to run first at Naas on Wednesday

Curragh winner Dr Zempf is going the 'Siskin route'
Curragh winner Dr Zempf is going the ‘Siskin route’ (PA)

Two recent course and distance winners – Ger Lyons’ unbeaten Dr Zempf and Paddy Twomey’s Pinar Del Rio – are also notable entries. Lyons was successful in this race two years ago with his subsequent Classic hero Siskin.

Stack reports Castle Star in fine form since he caught the eye of so many in the Marble Hill.

“He worked nicely this morning,” he said on Tuesday.

“We’re happy with him, and he’s in good order – we’re looking forward to running him.

The Tipperary trainer has no regrets about staying away from Ascot, preferring to stick on home territory at this stage.

Stack added: “He likes the Curragh – and at Ascot, if you get drawn at the wrong side you might as well stay at home, whichever is favoured on the day.

“He seems as well as ever – so we just hope everything goes according to plan for the next four or five days.”

Elsewhere on the Irish Derby card, there are still 23 in contention for the Group Three ARM Holding International Stakes – including Willie Mullins’ globe-trotting mare True Self, Lyons’ Munster Oaks heroine Thunder Kiss and 12 between Joseph and Aidan O’Brien.

Castle Star bypasses Royal run in favour of Railway date

Fozzy Stack has decided to skip Royal Ascot with his smart juvenile Castle Star and instead wait for the GAIN Railway Stakes at the Curragh on June 26.

Narrowly beaten on his first two outings, he stepped up to Listed class for the First Flier Stakes in early May and was a comfortable winner.

He was then even more impressive in the Marble Hill Stakes three weeks later, winning by two lengths over six furlongs.

The Coventry Stakes had been on his agenda but Stack felt he would better off staying in Ireland for now.

“We’re going to wait for the Railway Stakes. We’ll stay closer to home at the moment and we’ll travel later on in the year,” said Stack.

“He’s shown already he’s as effective over five and six. He’ll go for the Railway, then maybe the Phoenix and the Morny or the Middle Park, something like that.

“There’s a chance he could be a Guineas type next year, but let’s just get over this year first and then take it from there.

“He’s always worked well at home from the first day. He went nicely yesterday but we just decided we’d stay at home and go to the Curragh, which is just an hour up the road.

“It’s a hassle travelling at the moment with Covid and there’s also the Brexit situation so with another option upcoming, we felt it just made sense.”

Star shines with impressive Marble Hill performance

Castle Star leapt to prominence in the betting for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot with a stylish display in the GAIN Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh.

A five-furlong Listed winner at the track last time out, Fozzy Stack’s charge found the extra furlong well within his compass in the hands of Chris Hayes.

Sent off at 5-2, Castle Star was dropped right out by Hayes before he came swinging into contention with just over a furlong to run.

Despite the ground being testing, the son of Starspangledbanner quickened up impressively to beat Masseto by two lengths.

Betfair cut him to 6-1 from 14-1 for the Ascot race.

Castle Star was an impressive winner
Castle Star was an impressive winner (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s not often you see someone taking a pull a furlong out,” said Stack.

“The first day in Cork, Chris got there a bit soon and we are learning how to ride him now.

“He’s improving and bouncing out of his races.

“The plan in my head after the last day was to go straight to Ascot, but he was going to come out over the door, so we said we’d bring him up here and see how we got on.

“The Coventry is a possibility, but I wouldn’t rule anything in or not. There is the Railway back here which deserves consideration and we’ll just see nearer the time.

“He’s very straight forward, has a great constitution, bounces out of his races and is uncomplicated. If I didn’t run him this week, he would have killed somebody at home!”

Epona Plays and Billy Lee on their way to winning the Lanwades Stud Stakes
Epona Plays and Billy Lee on their way to winning the Lanwades Stud Stakes (Brian Lawless/PA)

Epona Plays ran out a hugely impressive winner of the Group Two Lanwades Stud Stakes.

Willie McCreery’s filly ran eight times last season, showing steady progression, but has taken her form to a new level this term.

Winner of a Group Three at Naas last time out, she dominated from the front on this occasion, winning by four lengths under Billy Lee.

“She just got into a lovely rhythm there,” said McCreery

“There were only six runners and we could see there was probably going to be no pace in the race.

“We wanted to try to take the pace out of the Group One filly (Champers Elysees) and not to leave anything for her. That’s a tough mile today.

“I was a bit nervous yesterday morning when I saw the lads walking the track, but the Curragh is the most drying plain in the country, so I never had any worry that it wasn’t going to be run.

“It’s fantastic for owner Renzo Forni, who has been a fantastic supporter of me since Joanna Morgan retired.

“I’ve nothing at the minute target wise and we’ll see.”

Pinar Del Rio landed the opener
Pinar Del Rio landed the opener (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lee had earlier struck gold aboard Pinar Del Rio (2-1) in the Tally Ho Stud Irish EBF (C&G) Maiden.

Third first time out at Naas, he put that experience to good use to beat Thunder Eclipse by a length and a quarter.

“He’s an uncomplicated horse, he had a lovely first run and I was hoping coming here today that he might do something like that,” said winning trainer Paddy Twomey.

“He’s showing a lot of class and he has to step up now, whether that’s running back here or going to the UK, I don’t know.

“I don’t think that ground is what he’s looking for – I think he wants nicer ground – so for him to do that in the ground, I’m happy.”

Verhoyen was a comfortable winner to bring up Lee's hat-trick
Verhoyen was a comfortable winner to bring up Lee’s hat-trick (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lee then made it a hat-trick as Verhoyen (12-1) powered home by two and three-quarter lengths in the Betway Handicap.

Winning handler Michael Grassick said: “We’ll have a crack at the Scurry and hopefully the handicapper doesn’t take that too literally.

“We could also look at the big six-furlong race here on Champions Weekend.”

Creat Belief (7-2 favourite) lifted the Betway Spring Fillies Handicap for Johnny Murtagh, while the closing Heed Your Hunch At Betway Handicap went to the Ger Lyons-trained Lust (11-2).

Castle takes starring role for Stack and Hayes

Castle Star claimed his first career win when taking the Listed GAIN First Flier Stakes at the Curragh for Chris Hayes and Fozzy Stack.

The two-year-old son of Starspangledbanner had been narrowly beaten on both of his previous racecourse starts, losing out in maiden contests run over five and six furlongs by a short head and a neck respectively.

The colt returned to a five-furlong trip at the Curragh to secure a comfortable one-and-three quarter-length victory at a price of 5-2, and may now be aimed at Royal Ascot’s Norfolk Stakes.

“He did it well and he deserved it,” Stack said.

“He was a bit unlucky to run into a good horse (Glounthaune) in a maiden the last day, that’s compensation today.

Castle Star, ridden by jockey Chris Hayes, wins the GAIN First Filer Stakes
Castle Star, ridden by jockey Chris Hayes, wins the GAIN First Filer Stakes (PA)

“I don’t think five or six (furlongs) matters to him. I wouldn’t say it was staying that was his problem the last day – he probably just met a better colt.

“I suppose we could maybe look at the Norfolk for him now. It’s six weeks to Ascot and he has plenty of experience now.”

Lunar Space was a 14-1 winner of the Listed Dick McCormick Irish EBF Tetrarch Stakes for Kevin Manning and Jim Bolger.

The gelded son of Dawn Approach was victorious for the first time in the seven-furlong contest having picked up three placings from seven runs previously.

Lunar Space (left) just prevailed
Lunar Space (left) just prevailed (PA)

Mounting a challenge down the centre of the track, the chestnut was joined by Magnanimous with two furlongs left to cover, but it was Bolger’s charge who prevailedby a half a length.

“We’re very pleased with him,” said Una Manning, wife of jockey Kevin and daughter to trainer Bolger.

“The boss said he’ll probably try to find another Listed or Group Three race for him if he doesn’t go to Hong Kong in the meantime, as there have been a few offers for him already.

“He seemed to travel well today and Kevin was very happy with him. He thinks he’ll probably stay a little bit further too.

“He was gutsy and battled back.”

Quick Suzy shed her maiden tag when taking the Irish EBF Stallion Auction Series Maiden for Gary Carroll and Gavin Cromwell.

The two-year-old was second on her racecourse debut when finishing behind Donnacha O’Brien’s Elliptic in a Tipperary maiden in April, and looked to have come on from that run when prevailing by five and a half lengths at 5-2 at the Curragh.

“She was much more professional today,” Cromwell said.

“I couldn’t believe that she was green the first day because we thought she was very professional at home, she obviously learned plenty from it.

Gary Carroll riding Quick Suzy (right) on their way to winning the Irish EBF Stallion Auction Series Maiden at the Curragh
Gary Carroll riding Quick Suzy (right) on their way to winning the Irish EBF Stallion Auction Series Maiden at the Curragh (PA)

“I suppose we might go to the six-furlong Group Three in Naas for fillies on May 16 for a bit of black type.”

The seven-furlong Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Handicap went the way of Joseph Murphy’s Pale Iris, who triumphed at 5-1 to give Carroll a double on the card.

The 5-1 victory was a first for the three-year-old filly, who has been gradually improving since making her debut in October.

“She’s a nice filly, a progressive filly, and we like her a lot,” said Murphy.

“Gary said she was half-idling up the straight and then arrived there a bit soon.

“The ease in the ground helped as she’s by Dragon Pulse. We might go back to six furlongs with her.”