Keeper Of Time clung on for a shock victory in the Ballylinch Stud “Priory Belle” 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown.
The daughter of Mehmas was a widely unconsidered 80-1 chance for the Group Three contest, having finished fifth in a Curragh handicap on her first start for trainer Johnny Feane three weeks ago.
However, ridden by Ronan Whelan, Keeper Of Time displayed a smart change of gear to come from the middle of pack and grab the lead in the final furlong – and she had just enough in the tank to repel the thrusting late challenge of Mehnah by a head.
Shale, the 7-2 favourite on the strength of a Group One win in the Moyglare Stud Stakes last season, could finish only fifth.
It was a first Group-race winner for Feane, who said: “Kevin Manning thought she ran a cracker in the Madrid at the Curragh. She’s toughed it out well today.
“Ronan gave her a lovely ride, settled her in and came with a run. We’re thrilled with her.
“The better ground helped – she wants good ground. She’s probably a filly that would suit America or somewhere like that.
“There were offers for her before, but there will probably be more on the table after this.”
He added: “We had a Listed winner last year, but that would be our biggest winner so far.”
Aidan O’Brien saddled two winners on the card, with Bolshoi Ballet’s impressive Ballysax Stakes success backed up by victory for Sir Lamorak in the Leopardstown Handicap.
Successful at Dundalk a couple of weeks ago, the son of Camelot followed up with a smart-looking display as the 9-4 favourite.
Like Bolshoi Ballet, Sir Lamorak appears bound for a Derby trial.
O’Brien said: “We’re delighted with him. He had a few lovely runs last year and then in Dundalk this year it was a very slowly-run race and he was green. He had a nice gap from there to here and it worked out perfect for him.
“He’ll probably step up into one of the (Derby) trials next I would imagine. He settles well and is a real Camelot – he has that bit of brilliance that he can quicken.”
Jessica Harrington’s O’Reilly (85-40) opened his account with a hard-fought success in the Leopardstown Maiden.
Runner-up on his debut at this venue in October, the Frankel colt when one better by getting the better of 7-4 favourite HMS Seahorse by half a length under Shane Foley.
Kate Harrington, assistant to her mother, said: “He took a bit of a blow and there should be plenty of improvement to come.
“We had him in at Navan, but took him out because of the ground. He really appreciated that ground today.
“We’ll take baby steps with him and step him up to a mile and a quarter. In a better quality race he’ll travel well.”
Harrington and Foley doubled up with 4-1 favourite Real Appeal in the Leopardstown Members Handicap.