Zhukova holds off Army threat

The rest of the news from Leopardstown on day one of Irish Champions Weekend, where Zhukova struck for Dermot Weld.

Zhukova made a triumphant return from an absence of 122 days to foil Aidan O'Brien's triple assault on the KPMG Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown.

Last seen winning at Naas in May, the Dermot Weld-trained four-year-old stormed clear of the O'Brien pace-setting Tree Of Knowledge over a furlong out to clinch victory.

It was a decisive move by Pat Smullen on Zhukova (5/2) as he got first run on O'Brien's US Army Ranger.

Despite finishing strongly, the 8/11 favourite was still half a length down at the line. O'Brien's other runner, Bondi Beach, was third.

"It was a good performance. It was her first run in four months," said Weld.

"The plan is to give her one more run this year. The plan has always been the Group One Fillies and Mares on British Champions Weekend. I've had that in mind for her since April.

"She put in two lovely performances in the Blue Wind and Alleged Stakes, beating Found and then Bocca Baciata.

"She enjoyed her summer break and has come back to be what I expected her to be – a Group One filly before the end of the year.

"It's equally pleasing to have bred her with my late mother. She's out of Nightime who gave my mother a great day when winning the (Irish) 1,000 Guineas.

"I'm more looking forward to next year and think she'll be a serious mare then. The best is yet to come."

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Smullen said: "She's a lovely mare, with a lovely big stride on her. I was quite happy to sit up, just behind the pacemaker, and she was always going to get to the line good. She showed a great turn of foot today, she quickened really well off the turn.

"She's just an improving mare. We always though a lot of her but typical of the boss, he's been very patient with her. She's a big mare and she's only showing the benefit of giving her that time now.

"She's a good mare but I am a little bit surprised at how she did it, knowing that she will improve for the run. That's scary."

Rain Goddess sprang a 50/1 surprise on her debut to take the opening Ballylinch Stud EBF Fillies Maiden for trainer David Wachman who recently announced that he is to retire.

Holiday Girl was sent straight to the front by Billy Lee and refused to go down without a fight when challenged by O'Brien's Key To My Heart in the home straight, but neither could repel the late challenge of the eventual winner.

The Galileo filly finished with a wet sail under Declan McDonogh and crossed the line with a length to spare from Holiday Girl.

"She's a nice filly. She's straightforward and Declan gave her a great ride" said the winning trainer.

"She'll be a nice filly for Aidan (O'Brien) next year."

Quick Jack (5/1) came out on top in a thrilling finish as Tony Martin recorded a one-two in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. 'Petingo' Handicap.

It was Pyromaniac that got first crack at pace-setting duo Benkei and Intense Tango, and McDonogh's mount looked to be on his way to justifying 7-2 favouritism when bursting into the lead a furlong out.

However, Quick Jack took off down the outside for Oisin Orr and came from way off the pace to deny his stable companion by a neck in the dying strides.

"It was a great result and unfortunately there had to be a loser," said Martin.

"I couldn't be happier and they are two good horses. Golden Spear ran a cracker, too.

"He was drawn 16 and the young lad was superb on him. There was no point being up with the hurly burly. He took his time and the gaps came at the right time."

Orr said: "I had the worst draw of all but managed to get in and he got a lovely run round.

"He got there at the line and did it well in the end."

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