Believe In Love bounces back for Stanerra Stakes success

Roger Varian’s Believe In Love returned to her best for a decisive victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Stanerra Stakes at Leopardstown.

The British challenger, penalised for last year’s Saint-Cloud success at this same Group Three level, had to concede 3lb and upwards all round and was sent off a 9-2 shot in a field of six.

She also needed to bounce back to form after losing her action and eventually finishing a distant last of seven in the Bronte Cup at York on her only previous start this season.

But Believe In Love, delivered from off the pace by Ronan Whelan, proved well up to the task as she hit the front in the final two furlongs and out-speeded her rivals to win by a length and a half from Federica Sophia.

Favourite High Heels set out to make the running, closely attended by a second British challenger in Sherbet Lemon – but they both faded out of contention.

Whelan, who was riding Believe In Love for the first time, said: “She did that well. Roger told me to draw a line through the last day, and not to even look into it.

“He said her homework had been very good, he was very happy with her and that’s why she was here.

“She travelled smoothly and picked up like a nice filly when I gave her the office. She’s probably only doing enough in front.”

Believe In Love relished a very testing surface at Saint-Cloud last October but had also struck on significantly quicker ground – as she did again here.

The winning jockey added: “She seems versatile ground-wise.

“(Roger) also said to me that last year she only came into her own at this time of year, so she should have a nice end of season to look forward to.”

Believe In Love holds several big-race entries over the coming months – including the Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood, for which Betfair cut her to 9-1 from 12-1 following her latest success.

Sonaiyla in the mix for Royal Ascot following Ballyogan success

Sonaiyla emerged as a potential Royal Ascot candidate as she gave a spirited performance to take Group Three honours in the Qatar Racing And Equestrian Club Ballyogan Stakes at the Curragh.

Paddy Twomey’s five-year-old battled all the way to the line to register her first Pattern-race success.

However, the race could have been lost at the start where there was a coming together with Loch Lein on leaving the stalls, resulting in winning jockey Ronan Whelan doing remarkably well to stay in the saddle.

Despite having her chances compromised in the early stages of this six-furlong contest, Whelan was able to weave Sonaiyla into contention after Lustown Baba, More Beautiful and Loch Lein had led the front rank.

The race was wide open a furlong out, but it Sonaiyla (13-8 favourite) knuckled down the best to win by half a length from Romantic Proposal. Teresa Mendoza was a length and a half away in third place.

Twomey said: “She’s a great filly, she’s tough and she’s hardy. I think she’s in better form than ever this year.

“She missed the break the last day and did great work in the finish from an unpromising position. I’m delighted she came today and showed what she’s been showing us this spring.

“I’ll have to talk to the owners, but she has won a Group Three now so we will step up in grade.”

Twomey revealed Sonaiyla may go for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“She’s in the Diamond Jubilee which might not be an outrageous target,” he went on.

“She’s Group One-placed and the Haydock Sprint and the Flying Five are other races to consider. We’ll achieve what we can for the year and I’d say she will be covered next year.

“She’s won on good to firm and she’s won on heavy. I’d say she has great preference for this track and has never been out of the frame here.

“It’s my first Group winner after a lot of places.”

Keeper Of Time provides Johnny Feane with landmark winner

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 with Sir Lamorak at Leopardstown
Aidan O’Brien with Sir Lamorak at Leopardstown (PA)

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.”

Shane Foley and O’Reilly after winning at Leopardstown
Shane Foley and O’Reilly after winning at Leopardstown (PA)

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.