Three-year-olds dominated the Safer Gambling Navan Maiden as Aidan O’Brien’s Sundial, an uneasy 7-2 shot, made virtually all to beat the Joseph O’Brien-trained Uxmal in battling style.
The ground, heavy at the start of play, deteriorated following torrential rain, with thunder and lightning not far away during the afternoon. No starting stalls were used for the last three races, due to ground conditions.
The mile and six furlongs of the Safer Gambling Navan Maiden proved an extreme test, but didn’t trouble Sundial, Seamus Heffernan’s 44th winner of 2022, who galloped on relentlessly to beat the long-absent runner-up by two and three-quarter lengths.
“He was the best horse in the race and I decided to keep it simple and he galloped out well — I think he’s better going right-handed,” said Heffernan. “It’s tough going out there, but he stays well and has a big heart. He’s the type who should keep improving.”
In the race to be crowned champion jockey, Billy Lee moved to within one win of Colin Keane thanks to his victory on top-weight and 2-1 favourite Mickey The Steel in the five-furlong Blackcastle Handicap.
Lee, who now trails 85-84, produced Joe Murray’s Hot Streak gelding to lead inside the final furlong before holding Jon Riggens by a length.
It was a fine effort by the top-weight following his belated breakthrough success (at the 25th attempt) in Dundalk on Friday.
Lee said: “I got a lovely run through, following Harry’s Hill, who gave me a lovely toe into the race. In fairness, he picked up well and stuck it out. He had a lot of weight but did it well.”
Having her fourth run and dropping into maiden company, the Fozzy Stack-trained Decorated My Life, a 25th winner of the campaign for jockey Andy Slattery, landed the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction 2-Y-0 Maiden, outstaying 1-2 favourite Ardad’s Great in the closing stages to score by a neck.
“She had a nice first run at the Curragh, but I probably over-faced her the last twice,” admitted winning trainer Stack. “She toughed it out well and should get a bit further next year.”
The shock of the day came in the Like Navan On Facebook 3-Y-0 Handicap as the Jim Bolger-trained 66-1 shot Bridge Of Dawn, on his handicap debut, opened his account with a gutsy display in the constantly deteriorating conditions, holding the late challenge of Allihies by a half-length.
On only his second start for Emmet Mullins, Secret Secret (7-2) justified strong morning support when coming from off a strong pace to slam his rivals in the first division of the 47-65 handicap over a mile and six furlongs.
Ridden by Dylan Browne McMonagle, he forged clear up the hill to triumph by nine lengths.
Mullins said: “He toughed it out well. Dylan said he’s as tough as nails, you couldn’t go far enough with him. He can be a bit keen, so the strong pace suited.”
Soon to be crowned champion apprentice for the second time, Browne McMonagle doubled up in the second division of this event, getting Shane Duffy’s nine-year-old mare Molly Kaye (22-1) up in the dying strides to foil Intend by a head, bringing the Donegal man’s seasonal tally to 48.
“He’s a real old stalwart, likes it here, and that’s his trip, not even 50 yards further,” trainer John McConnell declared after eight-year-old Stanhope proved best in the Safer Gambling Handicap over short of six furlongs, giving Mikey Sheehy his 25th win of the season.
“I’ll have to chat to his owners about whether we take him into next year, but this has probably justified giving it a go.”
Aidan Howard and Chris Hayes combined to take the five-furlong NavanRacecourse.ie Maiden with once-raced filly Magical Vision.
A daughter of Dragon Pulse, she relished the conditions, ultimately holding off Cavallo Pazzo by a head in a blanket finish.
Howard said: “I’ve always liked her, although she’s had her share of little problems. She’s quick and handles that ground well. This experience and education will stand to her next year when I hope to get her out early.”