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Al Riffa gives Joseph O’Brien a landmark winner at the Curragh

Al Riffa looks booked for bigger things after taking the John Ormonde Wexford Sand Irish EBF Maiden at the Curragh – a victory that gave Joseph O’Brien the 1,000th success of his training career.

Runner-up on debut here last month, the Wootton Bassett colt was ridden prominently throughout by Dylan Browne McMonagle and supporters of the well-backed 1-2 favourite will rarely have had a concern.

O’Brien’s charge quickened nicely at the two-furlong pole and was always doing enough, with Aidan O’Brien’s Salt Lake City running a race full of promise in second.

Assistant trainer Brendan Powell said: “Dylan said he jumped off smarter today and was up there. He’s so big and still immature, but he’s come on bundles for his first run. The future is bright with him and he could be anything. He’ll stay well.

“Once he started niggling he felt he had to kick when he did. He said he kept quickening from two out all the way to line. Even a stronger gallop would have suited him.

“He seems to go on this quick ground for a big horse. Dylan said he’d be better with a little cut in it.

“They have mentioned National Stakes and you would have to talk about that with him. For the size of him I think he’s going to be a cracking three-year-old.”

The landmark win has come for O’Brien in just over six years with a licence, and Powell added: “It’s phenomenal what he has done at his age. Joseph is in Saratoga with a runner tonight and a couple tomorrow.”

Naas Races – Sunday May 15th
Trainer Joseph O’Brien recorded his 1,000th winner at the Curragh on Saturday (Donall Farmer/PA)

The Paddy Twomey-trained Shelton (4-1) was another to benefit from a prior outing as she stayed on strongly for victory in the Loder Irish EBF Fillies Race.

Twomey said: “I think she’s a nice filly and she learned from her debut. I was hoping she’d run a nice race coming here and delighted the way she won.

“I haven’t thought past today, but she has an entry in the Debutante and the Moyglare. I think seven is no problem and we’ll talk to Billy (Lee, jockey) and regroup. He said she should be well capable of stepping up in class.

“The trainer would love to take baby steps, but he might not be allowed!”

Billy Lee on Shelton
Billy Lee on Shelton (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Wave Machine joined Al Riffa and Shelton in showing experience to be key in winning the John Ormonde Gallop & Arena Construction Irish EBF Maiden, on her third start after occupying third place on her previous two runs.

But just as happy as winning trainer Johnny Murtagh would surely be Aidan O’Brien, whose Quality Road colt Cairo showed bags of potential in almost running down the 5-2 favourite after finding his feet late in the day.

Murtagh said: “I fancied her the last day, but Ben (Coen) just thought she didn’t get home.

“She worked well during the week and Ben said she’s getting a bit quicker with racing.

“There is a five-furlong Listed race here next weekend so if she’s OK, and she’s been taking her races well, we might bring her back out again quickly and give her a shot at it.

“Ben said she pulled up a bit when she hit the front as well. She travelled very strongly today for most of the race.”

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