We were delighted to hit the ground running as the new turf season got underway this month, with Epona Plays' Group 3 win in the Lodge Park Stud Irish EBF Park Express Stakes at Naas undoubtedly the highlight.
Epona Plays hits the ground running at Naas
She comes from a very good family and already had a Group 3 win to her name, having won at Gowran Park last September, but I thought the way she fought on her first start of the year - giving weight away to the whole field - was unbelievable. It's a great result for her owner-breeder Renzo Forni and hopefully the filly will have a good season ahead.
It was also fantastic to see stable stalwart Downforce win for the seventh time in his career on the first day of the season at the Curragh. He's been with us since he was a two-year-old and turned nine this year. He really loves life here, where Eddie Dempsey rides him out.
Downforce wins on the first day of the season at the Curragh
The handicapper gave him a 5lb rise, now up to a mark of 106, so I'd imagine we'll look at running him in a Listed race at Cork next month. He's obviously ground dependent and enjoyed getting his toe over five furlongs.
In the same sprint handicap, I thought Gobi Desert ran a nice race on his first start for the yard. He hadn't run since May 2019 so he's entitled to improve from it and he'll enjoy a bit of soft ground. The syndicate that owns him includes Buddy Harrison, who has been working with us for the past ten years, a friend and myself.
Camino Mission made his debut at Navan towards the end of the month too and I was happy with how he finished off his race on testing ground over a mile and a quarter. He's owned by Philip Meagher, a solicitor in Portlaoise who was involved with us in Fiesolana a few years ago, and this horse might enjoy running over a mile on better ground.
Up Helly Aa finished sixth in the Listed Plusvital Devoy Stakes at Naas on the same weekend and I think a more forward ride might suit him. Slightly better ground would be no harm for him either and I'll be harder on him at home before his intended run in the Group 3 Alleged Stakes at the Curragh next month.
We also had Ben Asker finish third in a claiming race at Dundalk over seven furlongs against a couple of higher-rated horses. He tries hard and hopefully he can pick up a race.
It was good to get a couple of winners on the board to start the season and we'll all be trying our best here at Rathbride Stables to keep going as best as we can into April and beyond.