Gustavus Weston surprises Greenlands rivals

Gustavus Weston bounced back from a disappointing run six days ago to dent some tall reputations in the Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh.

Hollie Doyle had made the trip to Ireland to partner her British Champions Sprint winner Glen Shiel and Joseph O’Brien’s Speak In Colours has some top-class form to his name, while Sonaiyla changed hands for 900,000 guineas in December.

None of them had an answer to Joe Murphy’s five-year-old, however, who returned as a 14-1 winner.

Doyle adopted her usual position on Glen Shiel at the head of affairs and was joined by Make A Challenge as the pair went toe to toe for the first four furlongs.

As Glen Shiel dropped away, noted mud-lover Make A Challenge was left in front, but Gary Carroll began to get Gustavus Weston on a roll.

A Group Three winner back in 2019, he had been winless since and finished only sixth behind Logo Hunter at Naas last week.

He went on to win by three-quarters of a length with Make A Challenge returning to something like his best in second, with Sonaiyla running on for third.

“That was his Derby. He won here before and we always thought he liked the Curragh,” said Murphy.

“We thought he needed the race last week and that put him dead on for this one.

“He won well and I’m delighted the way Gary rode him, it was a good result.

“I’d have been happy with a place, we’re not greedy! He got him switched off which helped, he’s inclined to be a bit strong, but he switched off today and that was the key to him.”

Glen Shiel eyes Greenlands glory

Archie Watson’s Champions Day hero Glen Shiel returns to action in the Group Two Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh.

The Hambleton Racing-owned seven-year-old made giant strides last season, progressing from finishing second off a mark of 100 on the second day of racing’s resumption to winning the British Champions Sprint Stakes.

That was a first Group One victory for his jockey Hollie Doyle – which grabbed all the headlines – but it was no fluke either, given Glen Shiel had been second in the Haydock Sprint Cup on his previous outing.

While Saturday’s ground will be testing, conditions are not expected to hinder Andre Fabre’s former inmate, who won a Group Three over course and distance last summer.

“The Greenlands has always been the plan for Glen Shiel’s first run of the season, and I have been very happy with his preparation,” said Lambourn trainer Watson.

“The rain and the track hold no fears for him, and I hope he can start off his season by running a very good race.”

Glen Shiel has been a bargain buy for his owners, costing £45,000 in May 2019.

Simon Turner, of Hambleton Racing, said: “Glen Shiel’s owners are buzzing to have him back in action.

“He was the only syndicate-owned Group One winner in Europe last year, and the dream is firmly alive he can be just as good this year. Archie is very happy with how he’s trained, and he should enjoy the ground.”

Paddy Twomey’s Sonaiyla, the David O’Meara-trained Summerghand and Joseph O’Brien’s Speak In Colours appear to be his major rivals – but the latter’s trainer admits the six-year-old grey has not been at his best this term.

Summerghand bolsters the British challenge in the Greenlands Stakes
Summerghand bolsters the British challenge in the Greenlands Stakes (Dan Abraham/PA)

“Speak In Colours has a great record at the Curragh, but has yet to hit top form this season,” said O’Brien.

“There was encouragement in his latest start, and he’ll handle this ground better than most, but he’ll need to bounce back to something like his best if he’s to win.”

The Lanwades Stud Stakes also carries Group Two prestige, with seven fillies chasing valuable black type.

Johnny Murtagh’s Matron Stakes winner Champers Elysees heads the market but carries a Group One penalty for that success.

Jessica Harrington runs Valeria Messalina, who was behind Champers Elysees in the Matron but had pushed One Master very close before that at Goodwood.

However, Harrington fears the testing conditions could be against her.

“She’s in great form. She’s got to start somewhere – she’s being aimed at Royal Ascot (Duke of Cambridge entry), so we really need to get a run into her,” said the County Kildare trainer.

“But I took her out the last time at the Curragh because the ground was soft.

“She’s never run on soft ground, and most of her family didn’t like it. So I would be a bit worried about the ground for her, but she’s got to get out there and have a run.

“All her form is on good or good to firm, apart from once second on good to soft (2019 Oh So Sharp Stakes).”

The Gain Marble Hill Stakes is the other Group Three on the card.