Current Option retains Galway title

Current Option successfully defended his crown in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Ahonoora” Handicap at Galway.

The Ado McGuinness-trained five-year-old was a narrow winner of the €100,000 contest 12 months ago, before going on to win at Listed and Group Three level by the end of 2020.

He finished seventh behind stablemate Sirjack Thomas in Tuesday’s BMW Mile, and the pair renewed rivalry in the Festival’s final-day feature.

There was drama from the start, with Archie Watson’s British challenger Stone Soldier unshipping Oisin Orr shortly after the stalls opened.

The loose horse threatened to cause trouble rounding the home turn, impeding 5-1 shot Current Option just as he was challenging another stable companion in Spanish Tenor for the lead.

However, 7lb claimer Cian MacRedmond managed to get his mount on an even keel and picked up well to score by half a length from the fast-finishing On A Session.

Spanish Tenor was third, with Sirjack Thomas fourth, to round off an excellent result for McGuinness.

He said of the winner: “I fancied him, because I thought he was the class horse in the race.

“He ran well the other night when Cian got blocked in. I love when you drop these Group horses back into handicaps like that. He’s proved that he’s a very good horse.

Current Option with connections in the Galway winner's enclosure
Current Option with connections in the Galway winner’s enclosure (Gary Carson/PA)

“Of course we got a big scare up the hill with the loose horse – but it worked out great.

“We had four in the first six, and I can’t believe it.”

Current Option looks set to make a swift return to action too.

“We’ll probably go to the Listed race next week in Cork, because he won’t carry a penalty,” McGuinness added.

“We did it last year. So if all goes well, we’ll do it again and then give him a break.”

Church Mountain won the opening race at Galway
Church Mountain won the opening race at Galway (Brian Lawless/PA)

The front-running Church Mountain (12-1) provided trainer Denis Hogan with his third winner of the week, digging deep for rider Joey Sheridan to land the Kenny Galway Volvo Handicap by half a length from Ten Ten Twenty.

Hogan said: “That was great, and Joey executed it well. We always liked this horse, from the time he ran as a two-year-old, but he’s a massive big lad and he’s still not the finished article.

“He’s grown all year and he’s babyish – you could see there he was very green in front.

“We’ve schooled him over hurdles, but we probably won’t go that route this year. We’ll let him mature first.”

Dermot Weld and Colin Keane combined to claim the Lord Hemphill Memorial Irish EBF Median Auction Maiden, with 15-2 shot Malayan.

The Lady O’Reilly-owned filly was a never-nearer sixth on her racecourse debut at Fairyhouse three weeks ago, but displayed marked improvement at Ballybrit – charging home to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

“The step up in trip helped, and she obviously came on for her first run,” said Keane.

“She’s still a filly that rides plenty green. So you’d imagine she will improve a good bit yet, and in time I’d imagine she will get an extra furlong if needs be.

“She could be a nice filly going forward, because I’d say there is a lot of improvement yet to come from her.”

Micro Manage was a clear-cut winner
Micro Manage was a clear-cut winner (Brian Lawless/PA)

Keane doubled up aboard the Willie Mullins-trained Micro Manage in the JPK Fencing Systems Race.

The 8-11 favourite eventually wore down the front-running Monas Melody before pulling three and three-quarter lengths clear inside the final furlong, giving Mullins his 10th winner of the week.

Keane said: “He did it well. He’s a horse with a good bit of form to his name to be fair to him.

“He’s a horse that they obviously thought highly of, and they ran him in the Irish Leger last year. He just probably wasn’t right on the day and disappointed.

“He’s a fine, big, strong horse – and talking to Willie beforehand, he thought he’d improve from the run. So to go and do it like that, you’d be very happy with him.”

Imposing Supreme (left) won again at Galway
Imposing Supreme (left) won again at Galway (Brian Lawless/PA)

Imposing Supreme notched his second win of the Festival in the Ardilaun Hotel Handicap.

Victorious over an extended mile on Tuesday, Tom Gibney’s charge was the 2-1 favourite to follow up – dropping down to seven furlongs.

Ridden by Chris Hayes, the grey knuckled down well once meeting the rising ground to beat Fridtjof Nansen by half a length.

Gibney said: “That’s brilliant. He came out of Tuesday’s race as well as I’ve ever seen him and gave us huge confidence for today.

“It’s great that it’s coming together for him now at this stage of the game. We were very disappointed with him last year when we thought we’d do well.

“The handicapper went to town on him after Tuesday, and it seems a bit exaggerated to me, but it was great to win again today anyway.”

Current Option grabs Concorde glory

Current Option doubled Adrian McGuinness’ career Group Three tally, with the Lusk trainer’s second win at that level in successive weeks, in the Coolmore US Navy Flag Concorde Stakes at Tipperary.

McGuinness was still searching for his first Group winner on the Flat only eight days ago – until Bowerman delivered for him in the Diamond Stakes at Dundalk.

Current Option proved he can do it on the turf too, just getting the better of a stirring duel with runner-up Laughifyouwant.

The four-year-old, already the winner of a big handicap and a Listed race this summer, was prominent almost throughout and produced a sustained challenge in the final furlong under Gavin Ryan to prevail by a short-head at 7-2 – with the staying-on Soul Search two lengths further back in third.

“That’s my first Group winner on the grass, but I had my first Group winner with Bowerman last week –  it’s so easy after 20 years!” said McGuinness.

“This is brilliant and is great for the lads – this horse keeps improving, and we’ve had so much fun with him.

“It is great for (owners) the Dooley brothers in England, and the late Bart O’Sullivan was a great supporter too – if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here.

“He wasn’t a cheap horse (85,000gns at Tattersalls in July 2019), but he has well and truly covered himself long before today – and today we are in bonus territory.”

Overseas adventures may beckon next for the much-improved gelding.

McGuinness added: “We’ll see what’s on the agenda in Ireland, but more than likely he will go to the Middle East for some of their festivals.

“We haven’t killed him with racing this year either way – and we’ll sit back and think about things now.”

Sweet Gardenia earlier sprang a 25-1 shock in the Listed Coolmore Churchill Stakes.

John Joseph Murphy’s filly was an even bigger price when she struck for the first time at the third attempt as the 50-1 winner of the valuable Silver Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes at Naas back in August.

She had managed only fourth and 10th at Group Three and Listed level since, but got back to winning ways decisively under Robbie Colgan – by a length from 5-6 favourite Ontario.

The latter appeared to be going easily into the straight.

Colgan stole through to lead on the far rail, though, and kept on tenaciously to keep Ontario at bay.

The winning trainer’s son George said: “She is a very smart filly, but ran a small bit flat (last time) and we were disappointed with her at Leopardstown.

“The Ballyhane race was also a nice race to win, and we’re delighted to win this Listed race, and hopefully there will be plenty more to come with her.

“There are a couple of races she could run in later this year, but she’ll be a lovely filly for next year too.”