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Bolger strikes with Missing Matron as new campaign gets under way at the Curragh

Jim Bolger’s apparent second-string Missing Matron landed the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden at the Curragh.

Just two days after the Cheltenham Festival came to a close, a field of eight unraced juveniles went to post for the first race of the Irish Flat turf season – a race Bolger has won on several occasions in recent years.

The Coolcullen trainer was doubly represented, with Kevin Manning aboard 7-1 chance Freedom Of Speech, and Rory Cleary partnering 16-1 shot Missing Matron.

A smart start allowed the latter to grab an early lead and the further the daughter of Vocalised went the better she looked – passing the post with almost five lengths in hand over It’ll Do My Day, with Freedom Of Speech a creditable third.

Bolger was represented by his daughter, Una Manning, who said: “I just spoke to him there now and he said she has the makings of a very nice filly.

“She has a big future. She did it very well, she handled the ground well and did it like a pro.

“He thought that whichever one of them handled the ground best, that was hard to know in advance, obviously, and she just seemed to handle it a bit better than the other filly.

“She’s something to look forward to and it’s great to be back racing.”

Joan Of Arc gave Aidan O’Brien an early first winner of the campaign when landing the odds in the Big Picture Communications Fillies & Mares Maiden.

The 4-6 favourite was a workmanlike scorer as she took the seven-furlong contest by a length and a quarter from 80-1 newcomer Approach The Dawn in the hands of Ryan Moore.

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Ryan Moore scores on Joan Of Arc
Ryan Moore scores on Joan Of Arc (Niall Carson/PA)

Joan Of Arc, who finished second on her debut at Dundalk in November, is impeccably-bred being a sister to Group One winners Gleneagles, Marvellous and Happily.

O’Brien is thinking of running her in a Classic trial at Leopardstown next.

“You’d be delighted with her. Ryan said she’d be happier on nicer ground and won’t mind going up to a mile either,” said the Ballydoyle handler.
 
“We might have a look at the Guineas trial at Leopardstown for her.
 
“It’s tough going out there first time. He said he was very comfortable on her.”

Horoscope gave O’Brien and Moore a double when opening his account at the third attempt in the Royal Lytham At Irish Emerald Stud (C&G) Maiden.

Horoscope gave Aidan O'Brien a double at the Curragh
Horoscope gave Aidan O’Brien a double at the Curragh (Niall Carson/PA)

Sent off the 9-4 favourite, the son of No Nay Never led inside the final furlong and ran on strongly to score from 80-1 shot Meishar.

“He had a lovely run the first day here, but then he went to Leopardstown and was beaten very easily,” said O’Brien.

“Ryan was very happy with him there and we might have a look at the Guineas trial at Leopardstown for him.

“He said he’d be better on better ground – he’s a good-moving horse, but he got through it.”

Downforce mowed down long-time leader Indigo Balance to take the Paddy Power “From The Horse’s Mouth” Podcast Handicap.

Willie McCreery’s nine-year-old knuckled down well for 5lb claimer Nathan Crosse to hit the front in the closing stages of the five-furlong dash.

Downforce defied top-weight
Downforce defied top-weight (Niall Carson/PA)

Downforce (11-1) collared Indigo Balance, who ploughed a lone furrow on the far side of the course in the final half-furlong, to score by two and three-quarter lengths. Ecclesiastical was a head away fourth.

McCreery was also represented by seventh-placed Gobi Desert and said: “It must be tacky enough. I thought all week that it was drying out too much for the two of them, but Nathan said he loved it.

“He jumped out, barrelled along the whole way, and enjoyed himself.

“We’ll go back down to Cork in two weeks for the Listed race that he has won twice.

“It’s great to see him back. He didn’t win a race last year, but was third in a Listed race towards the end of last year and is a good little money earner for Donal Finnan so I’m delighted.”

Amazed By Grace sprang a 33-1 surprise in the Paddy Power Madrid Handicap.

The Johnny Murtagh-trained filly held the challenge of True Artist by a head under 5lb claimer Danny Sheehy, after a spirited battle in the final furlong.

Amazed By Grace survived a stewards' inquiry
Amazed By Grace survived a stewards’ inquiry (Niall Carson/PA)

Murtagh was also responsible for the third horse home, Fourhometwo, two lengths away.

The winner drifted towards the stands side of the course in the closing stages towards the runner-up, but the places remained unaltered following a stewards’ inquiry.

“She drifted over a little bit and when she hit the front she pricked her ears,” said Murtagh.

“She’s a light little filly. She likes soft ground. but went over the top last year. We thought she’d like the soft ground early in the spring and she has been working well. I was hopeful rather than confident.

“Both horses ran well and the lads are happy with them at home, so hopefully they (string) are as forward as we think they are.”