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Sacred Bridge will start in Guineas trial next season

Sacred Bridge will return to action next season in a 1000 Guineas trial.

The Ger Lyons-trained filly lost her unbeaten record when disappointing in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.

Connections feel that might have just been one run too many at the end of a fairly busy season – but having not tried further than six furlongs to date, it remains uncertain which trip may eventually be best for Sacred Bridge next year.

“Nothing really came to light after Newmarket,” said Barry Mahon, spokesman for owners Juddmonte.

“She’d gone a little bit woolly in her coat and she got a bit sweaty beforehand.

“There’s a possibility with fillies at this time of year that it was one race too many. She came out of the race well, she’s fine – (but) she’s gone a bit wintry looking, so we’ll put it down to it being late in the year for a filly.

“We’ll probably start her off in a Guineas trial and take it from there. We were hoping to find out a bit more in the Cheveley Park, but obviously we didn’t.”

Sunray Major was impressive at Ascot on Friday
Sunray Major was impressive at Ascot on Friday (Steven Paston/PA)

The same colours were carried to victory at Ascot on Friday by John and Thady Gosden’s Sunray Major – a half-brother to Kingman, who could return to the same track on Champions Day, ground permitting.

“He’s a beautiful looking horse and has always been held in high regard by John and Thady and the team there,” said Mahon.

“He’s a horse that is progressing. Obviously he’s had a few setbacks, but we’ll probably look towards the Balmoral Handicap. He’d only run if the ground wasn’t too testing, though.

“Good to soft is fine for him, but he wouldn’t want it any softer.”

Sacred Bridge out to shine on Pearl anniversary

It is 10 years since Lightening Pearl provided Ger Lyons with his first Group One victory in the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes – and he has a strong chance of repeating the dose with Sacred Bridge.

The unbeaten filly is owned by the sponsors, and Lyons credits the late Khalid Abdullah with raising the quality in his yard in recent seasons, seeing it as a great compliment that he is now on their roster.

Having won the Irish Guineas for the team with Siskin last year, Lyons is holding on to the dream that Sacred Bridge may be another Classic contender, but first his sights are set on Saturday at Newmarket.

“I suppose they’d be similar, but Sacred Bridge would be more precocious, because I never had Lightening Pearl as a Cheveley Park horse,” he said.

“I had her as a miler – but the more we ran her, the faster she got.

“This filly has always just rocked up. I never went to the races cocky that she’d win. I thought she’d run well in her maiden but improve for the run. But the only time I got a ‘wow’ off her was the last day.

“The Ballyhane (sales race at Naas) was a good, tough performance, but was that a Group One performance? No. I kept expecting something to beat her but after the last day, I felt she deserved her place at the top table.

“I think the secret to her is fast ground, and the way she did it in the Round Tower was visually spectacular. Anything she had done before that, while I’m not knocking it, wasn’t.”

Should Sacred Bridge win, however, Lyons is unlikely to be involved directly in any of the celebrations because he believes he is of more use at home.

Ger Lyons is enjoying a great run of form
Ger Lyons is enjoying a great run of form (PA Wire)

“I don’t like going racing because I get more done at home,” he added.

“When you are there you are pulled this way and that, and I actually missed all the photographs (when Lightening Pearl won) afterwards. I just find it a lot of wasted time.

“At home with lots of runners, your mind is kept busy – but over there, your whole day is wasted on one run. It’s nice when they win, though.”

It took Lyons longer than expected to make the breakthrough at the top table, but he is well and truly there now, with Even So landing the Irish Oaks last year to add to Siskin’s Guineas.

He said: “In my head I was always going to be training Group One winners, and I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long. Then when it happened, I was telling myself not to get carried away because it took me long enough!

Lightening Pearl (yellow) winnign the Cheveley Park 10 years ago
Lightening Pearl (yellow) winning the Cheveley Park 10 years ago (Sean Dempsey/PA)

“This is why we do it. The Cheveley Park has been good to me, and I’d like to do it again. Group One horses are few and far between, so when you get one you cherish them.”

While all Sacred Bridge’s wins to date have been over five or six furlongs, Lyons hopes she could get further next season.

“I trained her sister Viadera, who is doing well in America, and this filly is bred to get a mile,” he said.

“She doesn’t show you this (speed) at home, she just goes through the motions. I’d like to think she’ll get the mile.

“The other theory is that when they are showing you this over six furlongs, why change it? We’ll change it when we need to, and we’ll know more on Saturday. She’ll hold entries in the Guineas but she’ll also be in the Commonwealth (Cup at Royal Ascot).

“I don’t know that she’ll get the mile. But I think she will and (jockey) Colin (Keane) is not negative either. Her attitude will help her get the trip – it’s a lovely, high-class problem to have.”

Ger Lyons with Siskin after winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas
Ger Lyons with Siskin after winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas (PA Wire)

The fact Lyons is producing Group One runners for Juddmonte is also giving him a huge sense of satisfaction.

“I can’t overstate what the connection with an outfit like that has on my business. It’s a huge pat on the back for Glenburnie (his County Meath yard) that they entrust us with their horses,” he said.

“When they send them they literally could be anything. It’s like waking up on Christmas morning when you are very young.

“Yes, you get ordinary horses too, but you also get horses like yesterday (Straight Answer) or Sacred Bridge and you have a chance with what you get to compete at the top table.

“I take it as a huge compliment, and it’s something I’m very proud of.”

Lyons will also be represented in Saturday’s Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes by Dr Zempf, who already has a Group One second to his name in the Phoenix Stakes.

“Dr Zempf is a lovely colt and he’s definitely our Guineas horse,” he said.

“I would much rather be going seven furlongs with him, but we’re erring on the side of weakness at the moment.

“Colin has always said to stick to six furlongs for the minute. I think it’s the six which has been getting him beat up to now. Colin did say he’d reverse the Railway (Stakes) form (with Go Bears Go), and he was right, (but) then we bumped into one in the Phoenix (Ebro River) which is grand.

“He’s still in the Dewhurst, and I would have loved to have gone National Stakes/Dewhurst, but Colin thinks he’s still on the weak side. I can’t wait for next year to step him up to seven.

“I know the two horses I’m sending are in the right races and will be competitive. Whether they are going to be good enough, they might not be on Saturday but they will be one day. They are two nice horses.”

Breeders’ Cup on radar for Ger Lyons’ ‘wow’ filly Sacred Bridge

Sacred Bridge is set to tackle Group One engagements following her brilliant performance at the Curragh last week – potentially including the Breeders’ Cup.

The Ger Lyons-trained filly – who carries the famous Juddmonte silks of the late Khalid Abdullah – took her unbeaten record to four when rocketing clear in the Round Tower Stakes.

A natural progression would be the Juddmonte-sponsored Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket on September 25.

Lyons – who celebrated his 1,000th career winner at Roscommon on Monday evening – told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “The little filly gave me a ‘wow’ feeling on Friday – it was her fourth win, but I didn’t get a ‘wow’ off her until Friday. That was a ‘wow’ performance.

“She literally goes through the motions at home and does what she’s done. Every time I’ve gone to the races I’ve kept thinking ‘is she up to this?’, and every time she’s produced.

“I love training two-year-olds, and it’s for that reason – you don’t know what you’re uncovering. It’s when they hit the ceiling you go on to the next one, but she’s still on the rise.

Sacred Bridge has an exciting future
Sacred Bridge has an exciting future (PA)

“Subject to us talking to the (Abdullah) family and everybody being on the same page, that’s (Cheveley Park) where you would go with her.”

Should all go well at Newmarket next month, then an exciting trip to America and Del Mar could be on the agenda, for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Lyons added: “There’s a lot of options open with her, including a trip to the States at the end of the year

” If she stays in this form why not, that would have to come into the conversation that we’ll be having close to the time.”

Sacred Bridge books Cheveley Park ticket in Round Tower triumph

Sacred Bridge stretched her unbeaten record to four with a brilliant victory in the Heider Family Stables Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh.

The Ger Lyons-trained filly pulled away from her rivals in the final furlong to win the Group Three contest over six furlongs in superb fashion.

The 15-8 favourite, wearing the Juddmonte colours, took charge from her stablemate Geocentric over a furlong out and quickly put daylight between herself and the opposition in the hands of Colin Keane.

Galloping on relentlessly, Sacred Bridge crossed the line three and three-quarter lengths clear of Geocentric to give the County Meath stable a one-two. Ladies Church was three-quarters of a length away in third place.

Sacred Bridge created a big impression with her victory
Sacred Bridge created a big impression with her victory (Brian Lawless/PA)

Paddy Power halved Sacred Bridge in price to 6-1 for the Juddmonte-sponsored Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket on September 25 – and that is set to be the target.

Shane Lyons, assistant to his brother, said: “She was very impressive. We’ll freshen her up now and go for the Cheveley Park.

“As Colin says she has to step up again, but why wouldn’t she? She’s a diamond and as Ger says, that’s what we get up for in the morning.

“She’s push-button and long may she continue like that. Colin was very impressed with her and said why worry about getting a trip next year, just enjoy her as we have her now. She’s very relaxed anyway and horses get trips when they are like that.

“We’re delighted with the two fillies. Ger said to Colin the other morning that it wasn’t an easy decision the way Geocentric works and she’ll step back to five now.”

Acanella initiated a big-race double for Ger Lyons and Colin Keane in the Juddmonte colours
Acanella initiated a big-race double for Ger Lyons and Colin Keane in the Juddmonte colours (Brian Lawless/PA)

It was a quick Group Three double for the Lyons-Keane-Juddmonte axis, after Acanella had sprung a 16-1 surprise in the Snow Fairy Fillies Stakes.

The three-year-old had to find more on ratings – but she was entitled to improve as she only made her debut in April and was having her sixth start.

Keane had her in a good position to pounce after Solene Lilyette had made her bid for glory in the last two furlongs.

Acanella quickened clear and was able to hold the late thrust of Champers Elysees by three-quarters of a length.

Oodnadatta was the same distance away in third. Shale, the 11-4 favourite, was half a length back in fourth having had every chance.

Lyons added: “We’re delighted and she’s done what we were hoping for all year. She’s a big filly that is only filling into her frame and will be even better next year.

“She did everything right for the first time today. She broke well, she travelled well for Colin and while she’s not ground dependent she loved that ground.

“She’ll get a bit further if she has to and next year is going to be fun for her.”

Sacred Bridge strikes in Naas feature

Sacred Bridge maintained her unbeaten record and bagged the lion’s share of the huge prize-money up for grabs in the Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes at Naas.

An impressive winner on her racecourse debut at the County Kildare circuit in June, the Ger Lyons-trained filly successfully stepped up to Listed class on her second start at Tipperary.

The daughter of Bated Breath was the 15-8 favourite to complete her hat-trick in this €300,000 contest – and after moving towards the front a a furlong out, she dug deep for Colin Keane to see off the challenge of Richard Hannon’s British challenger Bosh by half a length.

Ultramarine was best of the rest in third, with Ever Given – an impressive nursery winner at Goodwood Friday – a creditable fourth.

Shane Lyons, the winning trainer’s brother and assistant, said: “That was a tough ask with her penalty. Obviously we were attracted by this race with the sponsors, Ballyhane and Joe Foley, and the big pot.

“We’re glad it’s over. Colin said she’s versatile, five or six (furlongs), and she’s getting sharper with her runs.”

Sacred Bridge is likely to be step up to Pattern class on her next start.

“She’s in all the early closers, all the fancy races, and we’ll be campaigning her now in Group races,” Lyons added.

“It’s great to train for these people (Juddmonte) – the pedigrees are second to none.

“We’ll get serious now with the early closers she’s in and take it from there.”

Joseph O’Brien saddled the first two winners of the afternoon, with the Albula particularly impressive when making a winning debut in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.

Joseph O'Brien is excited about Albula
Joseph O’Brien is excited by Albula (Simon Cooper/PA)

Seemingly unfancied at 12-1, the daughter of Galileo was good value for the winning margin of a length and a quarter over Dabana.

O’Brien said: “She won nicely and Declan (McDonogh) gave her a lovely ride.

“We liked her at home, I’m surprised that she won but we thought she’d run a nice race. She’s an exciting filly.

“She’ll step into a Listed or Group race now.”

O’Brien doubled up with the Shane Crosse-ridden Ulster Blackwater (5-2) in the Naas Race For Barretstown Children Fillies Maiden.

Sacred Bridge out to bag Naas pot

Sacred Bridge puts her unbeaten record on the line in the €300,000 Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes at Naas.

An impressive winner on her racecourse debut at the County Kildare circuit in June, the Ger Lyons-trained filly successfully stepped up to Listed class on her second start at Tipperary.

A tilt at Group-race company beckons soon, but Lyons could not resist the opportunity to have a shot at Monday’s huge prize.

He said: “She’s in good form. It would be a nice next step for her, and then we can go back to the Stakes races.

“The prize-money is so good it makes sense to go this route first.”

Archie Watson’s Dusky Prince is one of five British challengers in a 24-strong field.

Since winning on his Brighton introduction, the Prince Of Lir colt has failed to land a telling blow in either the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom or the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot.

“Dusky Prince is a very solid colt,” said Watson.

“He won nicely at Brighton on his debut, and things just didn’t go his way since. He missed the break in the Woodcote, and it was horrible ground that day, and then things just happened too quick for him at Royal Ascot back over five furlongs in the Windsor Castle.

“The step back up in trip on Monday will be a help, and this was a race we were keen to support – and with Dusky Prince being by Prince Of Lir and the bonus for a winner by Prince Of Lir, it was certainly worth having a crack at.”

Dusky Prince is joined on the trip across by the Irish Sea by the Richard Hannon-trained Bosh, who is on a hat-trick following wins at York and Newbury.

Kevin Ryan saddles both Aleezdancer and Smullen, while Tom Dascombe has declared Ever Given – who was an impressive winner of a nursery at Goodwood on Friday.

Jessica Harrington is looking forward to running Albion Square, Bellabel and Tut Tut.

She said: “Albion Square was an impressive winner of his maiden at Navan and has run in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group Two Railway Stakes since, so this is a good opportunity. He’s got all the experience, so I hope he will run a big race.

“Tut Tut’s form has worked out very well. The only little concern might be the ground for her, because it was soft when she was second in Fairyhouse, but she is in good order.

“You can discard Bellabel’s last run. She ran well below par that day, but if she can reproduce her first run I would hope she could run into a place and pick up a bit of prize money.”

Ballyhane bid in Lyons’ sights for Sacred Bridge

Ger Lyons is eyeing the valuable €300,000 Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes at Naas on Monday for his unbeaten filly Sacred Bridge.

Winner of both her starts to date, the Juddmonte-owned juvenile has created a good impression so far this season.

While Lyons is fearful of soft ground derailing his plans, the current good to firm ground is offering him hope.

“At the minute Sacred Bridge is scheduled to run,” said Lyons.

“She wouldn’t run on soft or heavy, but on summer ground she’ll run.

“She’s in good form. It would be a nice next step for her and then we can go back to the stakes races, but the prize money is so good it makes sense to go that route first.”

Lyons could also run course and distance winner Recurrent Dream while Jarvis would also run if making the cut.

“Recurrent Dream is by Elzaam, and so is eligible for the €50,000 Joe Foley is putting up if the winner is by a Ballyhane Stud stallion. He has won at Naas already and all things being equal will take his chance,” said Lyons.

“Jarvis is still in it also. He was second last time out at the Curragh. He’s probably too honest.

“I don’t think he’s a sprinter, in time he will want further but he won’t get seven furlongs by jumping and running the way he’s running. Hopefully he might get into the consolation nursery.

“It’s good money so we’re trying to support the race the best we can.”

Sacred Bridge on course for Ballyhane Stakes

Sacred Bridge is likely to put her unbeaten record on the line in the 200,000 euros Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes at Naas.

The Ger Lyons-trained filly has won both her starts, including the Listed Tipperary Stakes, and connections are aiming her at the second running of the County Kildare track’s richest race early next month.

“We’ll see how she goes in the next couple of days, but we’re looking towards the Ballyhane at Naas,” said Barry Mahon, racing manager for owners Juddmonte.

“We were looking at the Marwell in Naas today – but because of the fact she won a stakes race on her last start, she would have had to carry a penalty.

“In fairness (as well), there’s a very good incentive with the valuable prize money for the Ballyhane.

“She gets the allowances, given the conditions of the race, so we said we’d aim towards that – given she’s won a stakes race.”

Sacred Bridge takes Tipperary triumph

Sacred Bridge maintained her unbeaten record with a clear-cut victory in a dramatic race for the Coolmore Ten Sovereigns Tipperary Stakes at Tipperary.

Successful on her debut at Naas just seven days earlier, the Ger Lyons-trained filly took the step up to Listed company in her stride.

Harmony Rose and Keith Dalgleish’s UK challenger Misty Ayr set the pace with Sacred Bridge on their heels.

The race had a wide-open look until Sacred Bridge (evens favourite) quickened into the lead inside the final furlong under Colin Keane.

The daughter of Bated Breath, wearing the Juddmonte colours, put the race to bed to score by a length and a quarter from Misty Ayr. Harmony Rose was a length and a half further away in third.

Shane Lyons, assistant to his brother, said: “We’re very happy with that. She had a win last week and there was an early closing race in the Eyrefield Stakes on Saturday and she would have been in that but we don’t like putting them in until they win their maiden, that’s the policy.

“We have obviously done very little with her and she actually put weight on since and was giving us all the signs she wanted to go back.

“She did that very genuinely and Colin was again sympathetic with her. It was important she got black-type and Colin loves her temperament. She’ll mix and match it between five and six (furlongs) and take baby steps and go back to the team now and set out a plan. She has an exciting future.

“This filly is smaller than (former stablemate) Viadera, but has the same temperament and oozes with class.”

There was a nasty incident before the winning line when the Aidan O’Brien-trained Amalfi Coast suffered a fatal injury.

Jockey Wayne Lordan was thrown clear and was quickly up on his feet. He was checked over by the racecourse medical staff.

On Amalfi Coast, Lyons added: “I’d also like to give our sympathies to Aidan and the team as that is a horrible thing to happen and it has put a bit of a dampener on it.”

Willow back to winning ways at Naas

Willow returned to winning ways with victory in the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Naas Oaks Trial at Naas.

Last of 14 in the Oaks at Epsom, the Aidan O’Brien-trained filly tracked the pace set by April Showers, before leading with a furlong and a half to run.

April Showers did not go down without a fight, but it was 3-1 favourite La Petite Coco who posed the biggest threat as she finished strongly under Billy Lee.

Willow and Seamie Heffernan were not for passing, however, and the daughter of American Pharoah out of Peeping Fawn kept on all the way to the line for a half-length victory.

The 11-2 winner was Heffernan’s third chance in the race, after earlier defections which included La Joconde, who was 11th in the Oaks.

He said: “She won nicely. We thought she was a real good filly at the start of the year and it’s nice to win a nice race with her and hopefully she can progress.

“She arrived (on the scene) late last year so possibly she is going to arrive and be good late on this year.

“I had three rides in the race and I ended up winning it!”

The race was run almost 25 minutes after the advertised start time, with Gary Carroll having been unshipped from Holly Golightly, who was withdrawn.

The Royal Ascot-winning rider was treated on the track before being taken to hospital for further assessment.

Senior medical officer Doctor Jennifer Pugh said on the Irish Horseracing Board Twitter feed: “Following a fall in the starting area prior to Race 5, Gary Carroll has been taken to Naas Hospital for further assessment. Gary was fully conscious when leaving the racecourse.”

Sacred Bridge looks a filly to follow
Sacred Bridge looks a filly to follow (PA)

The Ger Lyons-trained Sacred Bridge is also bred to be smart and made a winning introduction in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.

A full-sister to Viadera, now with Chad Brown and a Grade One winner in America having been victorious in Listed company when with Lyons, the daughter of Bated Breath was always travelling nicely for Colin Keane.

Picking up from the two-furlong pole, the well-backed 11-10 favourite got the better of the more experienced Agartha by a length and a half.

Shane Lyons, assistant to his brother, said: “It was a lovely performance and Colin was very kind on her.

“She was entitled to be green, which she was when she hit the front. She just got a little bit tired and it was a typical first run from one of ours.

“She will improve and Colin said she’ll get faster. She’ll come on a ton for it and we’re very happy to take baby steps.”