It was a British one-two in the Visit attheraces.com Race, a Fast-Track Qualifier over an extended 10 furlongs on Polytrack at Dundalk, Ireland, tonight.
Smart six-year-old mare Elbereth (Andrew Balding/Colin Keane, 11/2) came through late to beat 5/4 favourite Fire Fighting (Mark Johnston/Pat Smullen) by a half-length.
The winner is now guaranteed a free start in the feature £200,000 Betway Easter Classic over 10 furlongs on the same surface at Lingfield Park on All-Weather Championships Finals Day, Good Friday, April 14.
Fire Fighter went off into a clear lead but was challenged by Stronger Than Me (Bill Farrell/Billy Lee, 8/1) in the straight before rallying to regain the advantage, only for Elbereth, who had been second but lost her position, to swoop and gain the verdict close home in 2m 15.29s. There was a head back to another closer, Elleval (David Marnane/Oisin Orr, 7/1) who raced in last of the seven runners for most of the way.
Keane said: “It worked out well. Mr Balding told me beforehand that she’s very straightforward, stays galloping and all she does is lengthen.
“I got a lovely lead off Pat (Smullen) the whole way but in saying that I thought I was in trouble for a couple of strides.
“When I got stuck into her she put her head down and was very game for me. She was only really getting going when she hit the line and further will be no problem to her. She’s a lovely big mare.
“The form was in the book for her to beat Mr Johnston” horse. Obviously, Fire Fighting is a good horse but he was having to come back off such a big lay-off.”
Elbereth finished third in an Italian Group One on turf on her previous start, finishing three lengths behind Ventura Storm in the Premio Jockey Club at San Siro, Milan, in October.
One of the two British challengers, Sign Of The Kodiac (James Given/Pat Smullen, 9/2) came through in the straight to win the Download The Award-Winning At The Races App Race over six furlongs, the other Fast-Track Qualifier at Dundak tonight.
The back-to-form four-year-old now heads to the £150,000 Betway All-Weather Sprint over the same distance and surface at Lingfield Park on Good Friday, April 14.
The Kodiac colt finished the neck runner-up in last year’s Three-Year-Old Sprint Final over five furlongs on Good Friday.
Sign Of The Kodiac broke well and raced in second, with course specialist Togoville (Georgios Pakidis/Declan McDonogh, 4/1 co-favourite) making the running and three-time G1 winner Gordon Lord Byron (Tom Hogan/Wayne Lordan, 4/1 co-favourite), now a nine-year-old, chasing them in third.
The winner moved smoothly into the lead with just over a furlong remaining and held off the determined challenge of Gordon Lord Byron by a half-length in 1m 12.37s, with the other British raider Pearl Sceptre (Phil McEntee/Colin Keane, 11/2) a further three quarters of a length back in third of the eight runners.
Smullen declared: “On his old form, Sign Of The Kodiac would have been good enough. All credit to old Gordon Lord Byron who has served it up to me over the last half furlong.
“He’s plenty quick this horse and has a lot of natural early speed. He was just idling a little bit in front. I was always hopeful that he’d pick up if something joined him.
“He did it well. James (Given) was hopeful of a big run and that now ensures him a run in the final on Good Friday.
“He’s qualified and he ran second in a race last year on Good Friday so that’s where he’ll head again.”