A first Classic for Lyons and Keane as Siskin oozes class in Irish 2,000 Guineas
Classics aren’t supposed to come easy and the immovable object that is Ballydoyle tends to ensure they don’t, but Siskin proved an utterly irresistible force in forging his way to an emphatic Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas victory under Colin Keane.
In doing so, Keane and trainer Ger Lyons secured a breakthrough Classic victory. Lyons has excelled in his handling of Khalid Abdullah’s deeply exciting First Defence colt, whose second Group 1 at the Curragh saw him stretch his unbeaten run to five.
The prickly, outspoken Meath handler had Siskin primed to run for his life on his reappearance and the antics that saw him refuse to load for the Middle Park in the autumn were a thing of the past, with the application of a hood for loading aiding that cause.
It was Keane, though, who was sent out to execute the final and most insurmountable part of the plan. Not surprisingly, he proved more than a match for everything that was thrown at him.
And there was plenty thrown. Social distancing rules in Ireland these days provide for gatherings of no more than six people in any one place and Aidan O’Brien had sought to make full use of that quota with half a dozen soldiers sent over the top in his quest for a 12th win in the race.
From an inside berth in stall two, Siskin was always liable to be a hostage to fortune. Sure enough, as he travelled powerfully under Keane, the battalion weren’t inclined to move aside. To quote Mick Kinane, it’s not an “after you” sort of sport.
Two furlongs out, Keane was all dressed up with nowhere to go. Fort Myers and Royal Lytham were in front of him and Armory was on his outer, and then Seamie Heffernan on Lope Y Fernandez came around them all to tighten matters further.
As he swooped under Heffernan, Keane had to take matters into his own hands. He forced Armory aside, with Rebel Tale consequently impeded.
Keane was right on the edge of the law, but it’s often where you have to go at this level. The subsequent stewards’ inquiry saw the placings remain unaltered, confirming a famous triumph for all involved.
“Full credit to Colin Keane, because he was out there on his own today against a football team,” gushed Lyons, who was choked for words at times.
“He and the horse got it right. The horse is a legend, he bailed him out, but you don’t get a Guineas handed to you and the two of them were men enough to do it.
“Tactics were our worry. We were drawn two and in real terms it can be a nice draw, but I knew today with the football team that was taking us on that it mightn’t be the best draw in the world.
“Colin had to be on his game and he had to have a horse that was going to take him out of trouble, and the horse did that and Colin had the balls to do it.
“We’ve seen it 100 times. In the 1,000 times I went through the race in my head I knew that was what was going to happen.
"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but if you don’t have the horse, if there was a kink in him, he wasn’t going to go through that gap, and the horse got Colin out of trouble.”
After breaking his Classic duck with Siskin, who was returned the 2-1 favourite and eventually finished a length and three quarters clear of O’Brien’s Vatican City with Lope Y Fernandez back in third, Lyons added: “This means everything. It’s been 30 years of hard graft and to win a Guineas was also my number one objective, and hopefully it’s the first of many.”
As for future plans, it looks like the Sussex Stakes could be next for Siskin. “He won’t go to Royal Ascot,” Lyons confirmed.
“It’s all about the 14-day quarantine here and I want Colin to ride him. At the same time it’s the horse’s three-year-old career and we have to do the right thing, but the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood is the most likely option.”
Keane was equally chuffed after his landmark success. “It’s a dream come true to ride my first Classic winner, especially for my boss,” he beamed.
“He has been my main supporter for a long time and it means a lot to repay him, especially in these colours. We haven’t had Prince Abdullah in the yard very long and to get a horse of that calibre, to be able to go on and do that, it's just a dream come true.”
People often wonder if, when a tree falls in the wood and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? At a largely deserted Curragh on Guineas day, it sure did. It went boom.
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