One the day of the new Flat turf season in these isles, there was more attention paid to non-combatants than those involved in the early skirmishes on the track. Aidan O'Brien chose the wide open spaces of the Curragh yesterday to give some of the Ballydoyle stars, past and future, a mind and body-bracing awayday.
In three large groups, established performers like Yeats, Septimus and Frozen Fire and high-profile three-year-olds including Guineas fancies Mastercraftsman and Rip Van Winkle, galloped seven furlongs. No serious questions were asked, but one who did catch the eye was one entrusted to the care of Johnny Murtagh, the Galileo colt Age Of Aquarius.
Where it mattered yesterday, though – and that is at the winning post, and later in the bank account – the afternoon belonged to Jim Bolger, who took home three of the seven first prizes and nearly €80,000.
Chief among the Coolcullen strikes was the surprise win by the appropriately named Oh Goodness Me, who mugged the Dermot Weld pair Firey Red and Mad About You in the last stride of the Group Three mile contest.
Four-year-old Mad About You, placed in four Group Ones last year, started 30-100 favourite and looked set to justify her odds as she ranged smoothly into a gap between the rails and her 20-1 stablemate inside the penultimate furlong. But she could not go through with her effort, and although Sean Gorey, on the trailblazer, finally took his eye off her and made strenuous efforts to keep his mount in front, Oh Goodness Me and Davy Moran prevailed by a nostril.
Bolger has high hopes of the three-year-old daughter of his favourite stallion, Galileo. "She'll be a big improver this year," he said. "Today's trip might have been on the sharp side and I'll now have to make up my mind between the English and Irish Guineas, the Musidora Stakes and the English Oaks."
Bolger's stable jockey and son-in-law, Kevin Manning, was on the Co Carlow yard's other two winners, four-year-old Three Rocks and three-year-old Toraidhe. His presence on Three Rocks, at nearly his minimum weight so early in the year, was the time-honoured tip in itself and though he needed a cool head after the colt was left five lengths in the sprint handicap, he had a length and three-quarters to spare even after having to circle the field.
Toraidhe, Irish for outlaw and the origin of the political term Tory, took the concluding mile maiden in solid style. The son of High Chaparral holds the Derby entry.
There was another Classic heads-up at the last hurrah of the all-weather campaign at Lingfield on Saturday, when Nashmiah ran away with the seven-furlong Listed contest, the Spring Cup. The tall bay filly was nearly three lengths clear of the smart colt Elnawin at the line and has Clive Brittain dreaming of a third 1,000 Guineas.
The 75-year-old doyen of Newmarket trainers, who took the Rowley Mile showpiece with Pebbles 25 years ago and with Sayyedati in 1993, reported his latest rising star not to have turned a hair of her still-woolly coat after her eyecatching effort. "She went out for a pick of grass this morning," he said yesterday, "and was quite relaxed about it all. But then, she didn't really have a hard race."
The daughter of Elusive City, rated a 50-1 chance in some betting lists, will not race again before the Guineas. "She's still very backward," added Brittain, "and the idea was to get a race into her and then let the warmer weather bring her on again. On that run on Saturday she's probably improved a stone and there's more to come."
Optimism from Brittain is never a surprise, but he was not the only one impressed by Nashmiah. "I know our horse needed the race," said Richard Hannon Jnr of Elnawin, whose three straight wins last term included a defeat of subsequent Grade One winner Square Eddie, "but he's quick and I didn't think any horse could go past him in a matter of strides like she did. She could be very good."
Five riders picked up 12-day bans at Huntingdon yesterday when they took the wrong course in a handicap hurdle. The quintet went the wrong side of a marker; the three jockeys who got it right in the field of eight were led home by Tony McCoy on Yossi.