Veteran trainer Kevin Prendergast rolls back the years with emotional win
First published on Sunday, May 22, 2016
Kevin Prendergast received an ovation rarely seen at the Curragh after the Chris Hayes-ridden Awtaad gave the veteran local trainer his first Irish 2,000 Guineas triumph since Northern Treasure in 1976.
It was an ovation more akin to what Hurricane Fly might get at Leopardstown or Sprinter Sacre got one memorable day at Punchestown. Flat winners in Ireland just do not get receptions like this. Until this day.
It meant a lot to Hayes too. The County Limerick native has been with Prendergast since he was 15 and rode his first Group 1 winner for the trainer, La Collina, in the 2013 Matron Stakes.
"This is magic," said Hayes. "This is my second Classic but my first for the boss. When I came up to him at 15 he welcomed me with open arms. I've been there ever since and it's great to repay him with a Classic."
It was a fine ride by Hayes, who kicked on well over a furlong out when Frankie Dettori was trying to find a gap on the far rail on Qipco 2,000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold, who was being held all the way to the line and could make no real impression on the two-and-a-half-length winner.
Dettori said: "Mine ran a great race but the winner was just a better horse on the soft ground."
It seemed, though, that everyone on the Curragh wanted to congratulate the octagenarian trainer, and the smile he wore could not have been any broader as he saddled his first Irish Classic winner since Oscar Schindler won the second of his two Irish St Legers in 1997.
Asked when he thought he had a potential Guineas winner on his hands, he replied: "Today!" He continued: "He has always looked like a good horse since we got him. He didn't run until he was rather large when making his debut here in October and he's unbeaten since. He's definitely as good a horse as I've had, and I had Ardross. He was a good horse, but this one's the best I've had in a long time."
Asked how helpful the rain had been, Prendergast replied: "He has worked very well at home on dry ground but he had won on soft, so we accepted it. He was forced to go a bit early today and Chris kicked when Frankie was in a bit of trouble, but he won well. Where he goes next I don't know. He's in both Derbys and we'll see what the owner wants to do."
Reminded that his last Guineas winner had been 40 years ago, Prendergast said: "That's a long time ago. A lot of fellas weren't born back then!" Much of the pre-race talk was whether Air Force Blue would take his chance on the soft ground – he did and finished seventh of the eight runners.
"He's not a miler," conceded Aidan O'Brien. "The ground was an extra hindrance so he'll drop back in trip now and maybe go for the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot. It's possible now The Gurkha will go for the St James's Palace Stakes which Air Force Blue may have been aimed for."
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com