Romanised was a 25-1 shock winner of the Irish 2,000 Guineas here, providing a first taste of Classic glory for his trainer, Ken Condon, described by some here as “the nicest man in Irish racing”. That accolade would take plenty of winning but Condon has won little else, having not had a winner since July until this unheralded colt stunned his opposition.
“It’s the stuff of dreams,” said the 43-year-old Condon, the first trainer to welcome a Classic winner back to the spacious new winner’s enclosure here, part of a €70m (£61.3m) facelift for Ireland’s main Flat racecourse. “We’ve been struggling just even to get a winner. But we knew he was a lovely horse.”
Sounding slightly awestruck, the trainer reflected: “He looked good there. Jeez, it’s gas. You can have a horse and you like him but sure, who are we to like a horse? How are you going to take on the might of Godolphin and Ballydoyle?
“Funnily enough, he worked the best he’d worked all spring on Tuesday. I knew we were a longshot coming in here but I felt he was going to run a big race. He’s always shown talent and just seems to have come to himself.
“I’m in a state of shock. It’s amazing to win a Classic. That’s really all I wanted to do when I came into racing. I knew I was never going to train a huge amount of winners but to have a couple of nice horses through, that’s what we aim to do.”
Condon represented Ireland in eventing at junior level but showed racing was in his thoughts by spending five years working for the Derby-winning trainer John Oxx. He started out on his own in 2002 and has attracted some attention in recent years for his handling of the durable Success Days, a Group Two winner at York last summer. Now he has a live contender for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.
There was no obvious champion waiting to be crowned in this Guineas, billed as a clash between Elarqam and U S Navy Flag, respectively beaten in the equivalent races in England and France. But Elarqam, the 2-1 favourite, was among the first in trouble, being rousted along with half a mile to go before coming home sixth of 11.
“It was bad enough to be clearly not his form,” said his trainer, Mark Johnston. “If he’d been fourth again and close up, well … But he was beaten a long way out. Jim [Crowley] said he was very relaxed, very calm, jumped really well. There was no question of not getting a clear run. And then he said there was no horse there from three or four furlongs out. No warnings at all.”
U S Navy Flag was presented with a fine chance to become Aidan O’Brien’s 12th winner of this race and looked like holding on with two furlongs to run, when his nearest pursuers were rolling around and bumping into each other. But he could not finish as convincingly as Romanised, who had been last at halfway.
“It was great that he won for Ken,” said O’Brien, gamely. With similar pluck, he added: “We were delighted with all three of ours, they all ran great races.”
But U S Navy Flag, a top-class juvenile, is winless in three runs this year and at risk of becoming disappointing. Perhaps a return to sprint distances would suit him. O’Brien promised to think about it.
Otherwise, there was plenty for his Ballydoyle camp to smile about on this card, notably an impressive European debut by the ex-Australian Merchant Navy. Despite concern that he had had little time to acclimatise, the three-year-old powered home in the Greenlands and was cut to 5-1 second favourite for Ascot’s Diamond Jubilee, in which he will be a serious rival to Harry Angel.
O’Brien’s Just Wonderful is also Ascot-bound, for the Albany, having put a smile on her trainer’s face in the opener. “Ours have to be good to win first time out,” said O’Brien, who has opted against making use of his sodden grass gallops so far this year.