Best of the rest: thrilling Sunday rounds off Longines Champions Weekend

The brilliant Love was in Group 2 action

Sunday, September 12, 2021

La Petite Coco and Billy Lee picks off Love in the closing stages

Away from the Group One drama, Sunday’s four other races on Longines Irish Champions Weekend delivered a combination of exciting finishes and outstanding performances, writes Jack Lacey-Hatton.

In the day’s opening race, the ‘Bold Lad’ Sprint Handicap, Big Gossey emerged through a packed field of 23 runners to claim a narrow triumph. 

Charles O’Brien’s four-year-old was a 33-1 outsider but slowly moved through the field before picking up strongly to hold off Arnhem and Hightimeyouwon. 

And winning jockey Michael Hussey said: “It was sweet. He travelled well throughout. 

“I was in front too early on him, but but he's toughed it out. 

“Last couple of times in the stalls he has been rearing up, but today he was perfect.”

The Group 2 Blandford Stakes was set to be a test of whether Love could rediscover her scintillating form from last season.

But in the end it was Paddy Twomey’s La Petite Coco who stole the limelight, edging the former 1000 Guineas winner in a thrilling photo finish. 

Aidan O’Brien’s star looked to have the race sewn up down the home straight but Billy Lee refused to give up aboard the 16-5 shot, who fought back in the dying stages.

Lee himself admitted he wasn’t entirely sure on the line but in the end nicked the victory by a short-head - one of the most dramatic wins of the weekend.  

Trainer Twomey said: “We hoped coming here that she might do something like that, the worries were the quicker ground and dropping in trip. 

“I had a plan mapped out in my head and this was it. I hadn't thought Love would turn up but when she did I thought ‘I’m not changing course, we’re going forward’.

"I said I think she's good, and good enough to take Love on.”

In the final two races of the weekend, 11-4 shot King X J powered home in the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale Stakes. 

The Michael O’Callaghan-trained colt could only manage a seventh-place finish on the course last month, but showed a huge improvement to hold off Threebagsfull and Cashew, who had led for much of the 6f trip.

15/8 favourite Delmona finished back in fifth place.

Then a bonafide thriller closed the book on a spectacular weekend of racing, with favourite Max Mayhem edging a remarkably close finish in the ‘Northfields’ Handicap.

Half a dozen runners all had a huge chance as they entered the final yards, but the three-year-old - trained by Joseph O’Brien - managed to narrowly beat Pineapple Express.

Winning jockey Mikey Sheehy said: “I thought he was very good and tough. He put his head down and he toughed it out to the line.

“There was plenty of pace on, and I travelled into the race with ease. In fairness, he didn’t really quicken much, he just lengthens this horse. 

“He was very good today.”

I said I think she's good, and good enough to take Love on - Paddy Twomey

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