Kentucky-Bred Maiden Bachelor Duke Wins Irish Classic

Kentucky-bred Bachelor Duke became the first maiden to win the Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) in more than 30 years Saturday at The Curragh, rallying strongly under pressure from jockey Seb Sanders to collar favored Azamour in the final 100 yards.

The 12-1 shot Bachelor Duke swept past Azamour and Grey Swallow, powering home on the far outside for Sanders after languishing near the back of the eight-horse field until the final quarter mile. The winning margin in the race, worth a total of $594,477, was one length. The time was of 1:40 flat for the mile on good to firm going. Azamour finished a half-length in front of Grey Swallow.

Airlie Stud bred the son of Miswaki produced from the Seattle Slew mare Gossamer. The late Joss Collins purchased the bay colt as a yearling.

Trainer James Toller and Sanders celebrated their first Classic victory in the name of the late owner, the 12th Duke of Devonshire.

They employed a change of tactics after a seventh-place showing behind Haafhd while prompting the pace in the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) at Newmarket on May 1.

Toller, a trainer for 24 years, told The Racing Post he nearly opted to skip the race.

"This first Classic win has been a long time coming for me and it has fantastic to get it," he said. "It looked like the horse had improved since Newmarket and he had been working well. The faster ground today also made a difference.

"We had the option of trying to win a maiden with him, but when Haafhd wasn't coming here and we heard that the ground was likely to be quick we decided to come here. We will see how he comes out of the race, but I would imagine he will probably go for the St James's Palace Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot."

The first maiden to win the Irish Two Thousand Guineas was Ballymore, who won in his debut race in 1972. Bachelor Duke had two third-place showings in 2003 – his maiden debut in September and a group III effort at Newmarket in early October. He had four previous starts and earnings of $31,728.

Grand Reward set the moderate pace until giving way with two furlongs left as Leitrim House, the Tetrarch Stakes winner who would finish fourth, took the lead with 1 1/2 furlong left. Grey Swallow, in touch with the leaders all the way, took up the fight with Azamour a furlong from the wire as Leitrim House lacked a closing move and the race looked like it would go as the public expected until Sanders and Bachelor Duke came flying home.

The 32-year-old jockey punched the air after the finish.

"It's a fantastic feeling," he said. "I rode my first Group 1 winner (Compton Place in the July Cup) in the same colors and it is a shame the Duke did not live long enough to see this day."

Mick Kinane, aboard the beaten favorite, had no complaint. "He did everything to win. He loved the ground, quickened to lead inside the final furlong only for the winner to rush past us near the finish. The slow early pace wasn't a help, but I'm not making excuses."

Grand Reward, Newton, Amarula Ridge and Hayburn Street completed the order.