Mur Hiba off the mark at the Curragh

A review of the rest of Sunday afternoon's meeting at the Curragh as Mur Hiba maintained her progression in the opener.

Mur Hiba maintained her progression with victory in the K Club European Breeders Fund Maiden at the Curragh.

Michael O'Callaghan's youngster was down the field here on her debut but stepped forward markedly on her return to finish a close-up third in the warm maiden won by Velveteen.

The 3-1 chance hit the front at the furlong marker in the hands of Kevin Manning and saw out her race well to keep Blitz at bay by half a length.

O'Callaghan said: "She's been so relaxed at home that we started her off over seven furlongs. We've been stepping her back every time in her races as she's been showing a lot of natural speed.

"Kevin rode her the last day and was very keen to ride her again. Anything she does this year will be a bonus as she's still a big, immature filly. We'll probably find a stakes race for her and then put her away.

"She looks an out-and-out sprinter, and the last day we rode her very positive over six (furlongs)."

Hydrangea made every post a winning one in the Loder European Breeders Fund Fillies Race.

The daughter of Galileo was an encouraging second at the Galway Festival and was a well-supported 4-9 favourite to go one better.

Seamus Heffernan dictated terms to suit himself and although his partner still showed signs of inexperience, she eventually knuckled down well to see off Madame Cherie by two and a quarter lengths.

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Trainer Aidan O'Brien said: "She ran a lovely race in Galway and has progressed again. I'm delighted with that, she's a very nice filly.

"She will fit into one of the seven-furlong stakes races and I'd imagine she will run over a mile before the end of the season."

O'Brien and Heffernan followed up when Utah led home a one-two for the stable in the Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital European Breeders Fund Maiden.

The Galileo colt had the benefit of experience having finished sixth at Leopardstown on his debut, and Heffernan set out to capitalise on that match practice, sending him to the front from the outset.

Plenty of challengers queued up early in the straight but the 11-10 favourite wound up the gallop and kept going to see off The Anvil, who stayed on takingly, two and a quarter lengths behind the winner.

O'Brien said: "The first day at Leopardstown, Seamie said he didn't get the clearest of runs and was very green.

"He got a quick position today and galloped all the way to the line. He was not stopping in front but was still having a look around, and will improve again."

Michael Halford bagged the Phoenix Sprint with Toscanini and doubled up when Castle Guest (10-1) captured the O'Brien's Wines Handicap in the hands of the 10lb-claiming Robert Smithers.

Halford said: "I'm delighted for Robert as he works really hard and he deserves this. He's good value for 10lb and has a cool head. I'm also delighted for Paul (Rooney, owner) as he's given so many lads a chance in my yard."

He added: "Nine furlongs is probably his ideal trip, but I thought a mile here on a stiff track would be OK. He's very genuine."

Smithers, 18, from Kilberry, County Kildare, said: "I've been in the yard three years, but was out for a year with a broken leg. That's my first winner and my 15th ride."

Plough Boy (8-1) took the Plusvital Handicap for trainer Garvan Donnelly and jockey Killian Leonard.

Donnelly said: "He's been hitting the crossbar all year and it's nice to get one, especially here. He's been running solid races and Killian's 7lb made all the difference.

"We'll look at the Festival meetings like Killarney and Listowel. I think the tighter tracks suit him and I was worried about that today. He's very game and genuine."

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