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.
Irish racing’s largest sponsor, Irish European Breeders’ Fund have today announced its highest ever sponsorship by increasing the allocation of prize-money to €2.6 million. This will be the largest annual contribution to Irish racing and will bring the overall contribution to €52 million since the foundation of the Irish European Breeders’ Fund in 1983. This spend will encompass over 320 flat races and 160 National Hunt races that carry EBF conditions throughout the year.
Highlights include twenty-six races in the Median Sires Series each worth a minimum of €25,000, the Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes with a minimum prize-fund of €200,000 and the successful Irish EBF two-year-old Auction Series. This year the €695,000 Irish EBF Auction Series, formerly co-sponsored with Foran Equine, will be run by the Irish EBF with all prize-money levels upheld from April to October with twenty-five qualifiers and the €120,000 final will be held at Naas Racecourse on Sunday October 17th. Irish EBF already supports 95% of two-year-old maidens in Ireland, 33% of the three-year-old maidens, a series of three year old and upwards fillies handicaps as well as four €125,000 Premier Handicaps held over Irish Champions Weekend.
The National Hunt spend always has a focus on enhancing the mares program and this will continue again with over 50% of the annual spend concentrated on mares bumpers, hurdles and chases. The recent successes of Honeysuckle, Put The Kettle On, Heaven Help Us and Skyace who each won Irish EBF supported mares races, showcase the positive effect the program is having. Another recent boost to the mares program is the newly co-sponsored €120,000 Grade 1 Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown which is the richest mares hurdle race in Ireland and Britain. The focus continues to auction hurdles and bumpers with the competitive Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series and the Irish EBF Auction Bumpers running 23 races throughout the National Hunt season. The final of the Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle series, worth €75,000 was run at the Punchestown Festival and won by Surprise Package, a €4,200 store sale purchase. Finally there are over 60 Irish EBF supported races for maiden and novice hurdlers and beginner and novice chasers which make up the balance of the National Hunt spend.
The IRE Incentive Scheme, funded by Horse Racing Ireland, which awards a €10,000 sales voucher to owners of Irish-bred winners, will be an added feature on a large number of Irish EBF supported races such as two-year-old fillies’ maidens, two-year-old auction maidens, two-year-old median sire series races and three-year-old median auction races on the flat. For the National Hunt sector both the Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series races and the Irish EBF Auction Bumper Series will have the scheme in place for winning IRE suffix horses. This will greatly enhance already valuable races in the Irish EBF programme for connections of both flat and NH horses.
John O’Connor, Irish EBF Chairman, said; “I would like to thank all the Irish Stallion Farms, large and small, who fund the Irish EBF and put us in a position to increase the annual sponsorship of Irish racing and allow us to continue to provide many valuable options to owners and trainers of horses of both codes. The Irish EBF board would also like to sincerely thank Foran Equine for their wonderful support over the last four years with the Auction Series. It has quickly grown and established itself as a prominent feature on the Irish Flat racing programme and we are delighted to be in a position to maintain prize-money levels this year with the ongoing support of Horse Racing Ireland.”
Ger Lyons, Trainer, commented; “We landed the €120,000 auction final last year with Ecliptical after targeting it since its inception. The horse was an €18,000 purchase as a yearling so this series offers our owners a real reason to stay on board season after season. It was a huge thrill for Vincent Gaul, who is a long-standing owner and always has several horses in training at Glenburnie. The lucrative pot on offer in the Irish EBF Ballyhane race combined with all the median sires races gives us plenty to aim for with our string of two year olds. The fact that prize money levels will be maintained this season is great news and we really appreciate the investment and ongoing support from the Irish EBF and HRI.”
John ‘Shark’ Hanlon, Trainer, said; “It was such a thrill for the syndicate owners and ourselves to win the big mares race at Fairyhouse with Skyace. The prize-money is unreal for these Irish EBF mares’ races, it is very important to have this programme in place to give everyone an incentive to buy and race a mare. If I take in a mare to train these days, there are just as many races available for her as compared to geldings, years ago this was not the case, so well done to everyone involved in putting together the races, the prize-money and bonuses.”