POWERSTOWN PARK, Ireland--Irvin S, Naylor's French Light (Fr), trained by Keri Brion and ridden by Gerard Galligan, finished his first race in Ireland, a $16,500 Rated Novice Hurdle at Clonmel, in second place, an excellent result considering the going.
French Light ran second to last or last for most of the 2 3/8 mile race, moving into contention about three fences from home, and was among the leaders over the second to last, then moving into second over the last.
At the last, Broomfields Jeremy drew away to win by about 13 lengths while French Light held on to place second by a head.
This was Brion's first race as a trainer in Ireland after Jonathan Sheppard announced his retirement Jan. 4, and she was delighted with the result.
"After I walked the course, this was a much better result that I had expected," said Brion. "The going was very deep, and it was very tacky. My boots kept getting stuck in the mud. The horses were just digging in."
"Between the distance and the ground, this was not the best race for him, but he needed to run so that we could decide whether to go to the Leopardstown grade one," said Brion. "I talked to the Naylors, and we decided that that's what we came for. We decided we'd take a bit of a gamble."
So French Light will race next in the G1 Novice at Leopardstown on Feb. 6.
"I CALLED the Naylors right after the race," said Brion. "They were ecstatic. They knew what the ground was like. This was just a starting point to see how he'd run. He won at Saratoga on the firmest of ground, and then ran well today in the deepest mud. What a good horse he is. I can't thank the Naylors enough. They've been behind me all the way."
I have to say it seemed strange not to be calling Jonathan right after the race," said Brion. "I've been calling him right after a race for so long."
Winston C runs on Saturday, Jan. 23 in a Grade B Handicap Hurdle at Navan, and Brion said that Grade B is the equivalent of our G2 rating.
Baltimore Bucko will then race for the second time at Down Royal in a rated novice hurdle on Tuesday, Jan. 26, after finishing a game third in his first race in Ireland.
"It will be a busy couple of days," said Brion.