Racing: O'Brien's Grand Central derailed

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The Independent Online

The smell of burnt fingers and smouldering betting slips was in the air at Leopardstown yesterday as two of the most loudly touted Classic hopes from the Aidan O'Brien stable were well beaten, both ridden by Kieren Fallon. Grand Central, who had ascended to the front rank in 2,000 Guineas betting as cash piled on over the winter finished second to John Oxx's Alayan in a tactical trial for the Newmarket Classic. An Almighty flop followed as O'Brien's Derby hope of that name finished only fourth in the Ballysax Stakes.

The smell of burnt fingers and smouldering betting slips was in the air at Leopardstown yesterday as two of the most loudly touted Classic hopes from the Aidan O'Brien stable were well beaten, both ridden by Kieren Fallon. Grand Central, who had ascended to the front rank in 2,000 Guineas betting as cash piled on over the winter finished second to John Oxx's Alayan in a tactical trial for the Newmarket Classic. An Almighty flop followed as O'Brien's Derby hope of that name finished only fourth in the Ballysax Stakes.

Michael Kinane dictated the race on the Aga Khan's Alayan as Fallon settled Grand Central on the rails, last of the four runners. Attempting a challenge in the final furlong, the 8-15 favourite found nothing.

"It's great when you are allowed to dictate and when they don't take you on," Fallon said, "especially on this ground and a course like this.

"It's very hard to get to the horse in the lead. Mick stole the race but you can't take anything away from his horse. He's won well and I don't think anything would have beaten him today.

"My horse will improve and he wants better ground. Hopefully, the next day we will have a different result."

Oxx said: "I'd always thought of Alayan as a fast-ground mile and a quarter horse and I think he'll get a mile and a half in time. Before today we had no Classic aspirations for him. We'll have to think about a Guineas now. But I don't know if he's entered. He's better than we thought."

Grand Central, not as good as many thought, was pushed out dramatically by the Irish bookmakers Cashmans for the 2,000 Guineas from 8-1 to 50-1. Totesport go 20-1 from 9-1 and shortened Dubawi to 9-4 from 5-2 and Rob Roy to 8-1 from 10-1.

Almighty, who holds entries in the Dante Stakes and Derby, was most disappointing behind the Dermot Weld-trained Bobs Pride and is now 33-1 from 16-1 for the Classic with Coral.

"Almighty is a horse I've liked at home," Fallon said. "It was disappointing to see him get beat like he did."

O'Brien and Fallon did land a 13-1 double with Emerald Cat and Virginia Waters. The latter was an easy winner of the fillies' trial and staked a claim for the 1,000 Guineas. Totesport go 16-1 from 33-1 about her chance.

At Limerick Ruby Walsh wasted no time in making a triumphant return following his success on Hedgehunter in the Grand National with victory on Scarthy Lad in the novice chase.

Richard Edmondson

Nap: Snowy

(Kelso 2.20)

NB: Swiftway

(Kelso 4.50)

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