AIDAN O’Brien tightened his grip on the Epsom Oaks when Snowfall made all to provide the trainer with his first victory in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes on day one of York’s season-opening Dante meeting.
The Ballydoyle trainer is already responsible for the Cazoo Oaks ante-post favourite Santa Barbara after her second-place finish behind stablemate Mother Earth in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Yet, after a relatively slow start to the 2021 season by the all-conquering trainer’s own high standards, this win confirmed the wellbeing of his yard ahead of High Definition putting his unbeaten record, lofty reputation and Derby credentials on the line in today’s Dante Stakes against established Group One-winning colts like Mark Johnston’s Gear Up.
Victorious just once from seven outings last season, a very tactically astute Ryan Moore navigated Snowfall, owned by the Coolmore breeding empire, to the lead from an early stage on the Knavesmire – and this proved to be a race-winning move.
It meant he and Snowfall could dictate the pace on their terms and they were never really threatened – they passed the post with three and three-quarter lengths in hand.
Noon Star filled the runner-up spot, with Teona doing well to finish as close as she did in third after pulling fiercely for her head for much of the race.
O’Brien said: “We always thought the world of her last year, but things just didn’t work for her. On pedigree she was always going to be suited by a step up in trip, Ryan gave her a lovely ride.
“I would think the Oaks will be the plan, but we’ll all have a chat. Things just didn’t work out for her last season, hopefully she goes on and has a good year.”
In the chief supporting race, Starman put down a marker for the summer’s top sprints with a battling win in the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes under champion jockey Oisin Murphy.
Winner of last year’s Garrowby Stakes at York, Starman is the ante-post favourite for Royal Ascot’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes after providing trainer Ed Walker with the biggest domestic success of his burgeoning career.
Walker said: “Oisin said he got there a fraction early and wasn’t doing a lot in front. Hopefully off a stronger pace he could be even better, who knows.
“We never thought he’d be this good as he was so big at two, we couldn’t do a lot with him and Covid pushed his start back last year. He’s done nothing wrong since then other than on bottomless ground at Ascot.
“It’s Ascot next for the Diamond Jubilee. He is in the King’s Stand and I thought maybe if Battaash didn’t make it – but I think it will be the Jubilee.”
There was a subdued start to the Dante meeting as jockeys remembered retired rider Tyrone Williams who died on Tuesday and reminisced about his 1997 Ebor win on Yorkshire trainer Les Eyre’s Far Ahead.
Fittingly, the meeting began with Ilaraab extending his winning streak to six with an impressive performance in the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Jorvik Handicap.
The winner scorched home for jockey Tom Marquand and trainer William Haggas in the distinctive yellow and black colours of their globetrotting Group One winner Addeybb.
Haggas, a proud Yorkshireman, has made no secret of his desire to win the Ebor, and the horse is now guaranteed a place in Europe’s most prestigious Flat handicap.
Marquand said of Ilaraab: “You wouldn’t know where the ceiling is for this lad – you couldn’t say he was putting it all on the line to get in front there.”
Meanwhile Malton trainer Richard Fahey, fresh from celebrating his 3,000th British winner on Tuesday evening at Ayr, pulled off another landmark when stable stalwart Mr Lupton took the Churchill Tyres Handicap.
The horse’s fourth win on the Knavesmire, it was Fahey’s 150th at his favourite track and came courtesy – like so many – of a typically power-packed ride by former champion jockey Paul Hanagan.
Fahey said: “Fantastic. He’s a wonderful horse. He’s an absolute legend. It was great to get the 3,000 up – and now it’s great to have a winner here. I’ll probably stick him in the Wokingham (Royal Ascot) and see what happens.”
Reflecting on his 3,000-winner milestone brought up by Hong Kong Harry, Fahey added: “It wasn’t really until this morning I realised there are a lot of trainers I hold in very high esteem and have a lot of respect for and aren’t on the list.
“We’ve just got to carry on. I was still up at 10 to 4 this morning, so it makes no difference.”
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