GOING SOME WAY towards satisfying Dermot Weld’s desire for a genuine Classic contender this season, Homeless Songs starred at Leopardstown on Saturday, landing the first of three Classic trials on the card in style, putting in the performance of the day. It is 19 years since Weld won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket with Refuse To Bend, ridden by the late, great Pat Smullen, carrying the silks of Moyglare Stud.
Homeless Songs, who also carries the iconic black and white silks of Moyglare, confirmed herself an ideal candidate for Weld to return to Newmarket by winning the 1000 Guineas Trial, a Group Three over 7f. Chris Hayes, who was riding the homebred 3yo Frankel filly for the first time, manoeuvred his mount perfectly in the straight with Homeless Songs sprinting clear of the field and putting the race to bed in a few strides.
In doing so, Homeless Songs likely earned herself a crack at the 1000 Guineas, a race Weld has never won before, but one he identified as the likely target. Weld said: “I would say Newmarket is a strong possibility. I’d be very hopeful that she would be able to carry that form over to the mile. We’ll see how she comes out of the race and then decide where we go next.
“We just wanted to see how we did here today and I thought her performance was very professional. It was a very good renewal; the standard of the fillies in the race was very high and Chris said she just took a blow going to the line. “She has a lot of pace. I thought she was very professional. Chris rode her for speed and you saw what pace she has; she settled it in three strides.”
Ger Lyons continued his solid start to the new campaign and, less than a week after bagging the featured Madrid Handicap at Naas with Markaz Paname, snared the Listed 2000 Guineas Trial, also over 7f, with Dr Zempf. A 3yo Dark Angel colt who cost 420,000gns, Peter Brant’s Dr Zempf may have won the 2000 Guineas Trial in comprehensive fashion but Lyons was not getting too carried away in the immediate aftermath.
He explained: “You can only beat what’s in front of you. We won’t be breaking out champagne or anything but we’re happy. He is still in the pot for the Guineas and, if we have a Guineas colt, it’s him. “He has a run under his belt now and we can go to Newmarket at the end of the month if we need to but we’re a long way off a horse rated 120.
There should be plenty of improvement in him though but there needs to be for where he is going.” Nobody has dominated the 1m2f Group 3 Ballysax Stakes like Aidan O’Brien, with 11 wins since 1999, but this year it was his sons Joseph and Donnacha whose charges fought out a thrilling finish as the latter’s Piz Badile tenaciously dug deep to overhaul Buckaroo. It looked as though the runner-up had put the race to bed after moving on from the winner inside the closing stages, with the pair pulling clear of favourite Duke De Sessa in third.
However, Piz Badile mounted a spirited rally under a determined Gavin Ryan to claw back the deficit on Buckaroo in the dying strides. An attractive colt by Ulysses, Piz Badile has always been held in the highest regard by Donnacha O’Brien, who waxed lyrical about the Niarchos family homebred after a ready Killarney maiden win last July, in which Buckaroo was third.
A tilt at Epsom and the Derby is now firmly in the trainer’s plans, although a return to Leopardstown for the Derrinstown Derby Trial on 8 May could come first. Weld’s Harzand, in 2016, was the most recent Ballysax victor to taste Epsom glory. “He’s always been a beautiful horse and matured well over the winter,” said O’Brien, who won the Ballysax as a rider in 2018 aboard his father’s Nelson.
“He stays well and will be better going a bit further so the Derby trip should be ideal, but it was lovely to see him quicken like that over this shorter trip. He’s a beautiful horse going forward. “Joseph was about ten yards to my left while watching the race. If I don’t win, I’m happy when he wins and it’s the same the other way around.
“There was a bit to work on coming here with this horse but I think a lot of him. I’d have been disappointed if he wasn’t thereabouts. We came trying to find out if he’s a Derby horse and hopefully he could be. “We’ll probably go for the Derrinstown and then on to Epsom, that’s been the plan for a while. If that doesn’t suit, we could always go straight there. He’s still a big frame of a horse and whatever he does this year, I think he’ll be even better as a 4yo.”
A rematch between the front two could be on the cards back here next month as Joseph O’Brien is also plotting another run for Buckaroo before the summer Classics. “We were very pleased with his run after having to do it the hard way around the outside,” said O’Brien. “It looked like he had it all done and that the race was in safekeeping, but the winner just fought back. “Hopefully he’s going to be a very solid horse for us. I think a return here for the Derrinstown would look the most logical route, he’ll want another run anyway, but we’ll discuss it with owner Sheikh Fahad and his Qatar Racing team.”