A mammoth 278 juveniles remain in with a chance of claiming the biggest prize on offer at Naas Racecourse following the latest forfeit stage for the second renewal of the €200,000 Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes.
Among the 278 that have stood their ground are winners from both sides of the Irish Sea with 90 British-based entries remaining for the feature race on the August Bank Holiday Monday.
The race is confined to two-year-olds that are EBF eligible and whose sire established a median price of not more than €75,000 at the 2020 yearling sales. There is also the added incentive for 19 of the remaining entries as sponsors Ballyhane Stud have posted a €50,000 bonus if the winner of the race is by a sire standing at Ballyhane.
Ballyhane Stud has established a reputation for standing leading commercial and successful stallions over the last two decades with Dandy Man, Elzaam, Prince Of Lir, Soldier's Call and Sands Of Mali currently on their roster.
Ger Lyons is a trainer who is no stranger to big two-year-old winners and also has his hands on a few entries that could chase the bonus.
Notably, among the Lyons cast are two of Elzaam’s progeny. Recurrent Dream is a half-brother to a seven-time winner, Powerallied, who has yet to advertise his wares in public, while Elzaam Tales created a positive impression when just touched off by a head on debut in Dundalk last month.
Among Lyons’ other possible contenders is Jarvis, who also showed plenty of promise first time out when third in a Cork maiden at the beginning of April. The runner-up on that occasion, the Fozzy Stack-trained Castle Star has since won twice, including at Group 3 level last weekend.
“The Irish EBF are brilliant as the primary sponsor of Irish racing. They have put a huge amount of money into the sport, recently announcing an all-time-high allocation of €2.6m in prize money for the year. Everyone in Irish racing should be very thankful to them for that," Lyons said.
“I will always want to have entries in a race like the Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes with such a substantial pot. Any contest that puts sizeable prize money up for the owners has to be greatly appreciated and has to be supported. I’m only too happy to back it because it is beneficial to our owners in the long term."
The Classic-winning trainer added: “The €50,000 bonus to the winner if sired by a Ballyhane Stud stallion is an obvious attraction and I have two by Elzaam in it. I’d take great pleasure out of taking an extra 50 grand from Joe Foley!
“I like Elzaam as a sire but offering a bonus of this nature would make you want an Elzaam just that little bit more.”
Just days after saddling Belle Image to finish fourth in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at odds of 125/1, trainer Sheila Lavery is no stranger to taking a punt in high calibre races and the Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes is firmly on her radar.
Lavery has half a dozen horses in her care that could take in this Naas race and she too was full of praise for the initiative as well as being hopeful of being strongly represented when the race comes around on 2nd August.
“You need to have entries in a race of this calibre," she stated on Friday morning. "You need to have run and finished in the first five in your first run or have a good rating to try to get into the race but it is a race you would be thinking about with all of your two-year-olds that are eligible.
“Of mine that are entered, two have run to date. Arewecrystalclear is a smart filly who has run twice, including on debut at Naas when she was fifth in a good maiden at the start of the month. Then she was third in Cork last week, when she struggled in the ground. I think it was the ground that beat her there, she wheelspinned a bit.
“She relaxes really well so while she’s quick enough for five furlongs, you wouldn’t be worried about six at all. She’s one you’d be very bullish about for the race. I like her a lot.
“I also have a Lawman filly, Vidala, that I like a lot that. She hasn’t run yet, but she is giving the right signals so far.”
“It’s a brilliant initiative and Joe Foley’s fantastic for supporting it. The prize money is so good, that for the owners, the horses are paid for and there’s money there that they can go back into the market and buy. It’s wonderful and by leaving out the real top-end pedigrees, it is giving people a chance to get a share of some significant prize money that would make a lot of difference to a lot of people.
“And as we saw last year, that isn’t compromising in the quality. Some really good horses have come out of the race.”
The next forfeit stage for the Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes is on 23rd June and in addition to the lucrative prize money on offer, the breeder of the winning horse will also receive a free nomination courtesy of Ballyhane Stud for one of the Ballyhane sires.
View full list of entries here https://bit.ly/34sYcqS