Halfway to Heaven another Feather in O’Brian’s Cap
It seems to be the year for Aiden O’Brian, as he raked in his seventeenth Group 1 victory with Halfway To Heaven on Sunday, 3 August 2008, at the Nassau Stakes held at Goodwood. But, just as successful as he has been with training these magnificent athletes, one must also recognize the talent and skill of jockey Johnny Murtagh, who has backed fifteen of those breathtaking victories, and the horses who have poured their hearts into this horse racing season.
Lush Lashes, ridden by Kevin Manning, was the race favorite for winning the Nassau Stakes, and many had put their money on her with great confidence. But almost from the time they left the starting gates, both Manning and Lush Lashes found themselves in a bit of trouble. Boxed in, and not being able to find an opening to surge forward, Lush Lashes was held back while Manning was frantically searching for a gap in the field. He though he had found one, as Muthabara started to move away from the inside rail, but as soon as he had tried to take the opening it closed up, forcing Manning to quickly steer Lush Lashes around Muthabara’s quarters. But Lush Lashes was not prepared to go down without a fight, weaving her way through the other contenders to challenge Halfway To Heaven for the lead, missing out on victory by a head. Even though both jockey and trainer, Jim Bolger, were disappointed with the outcome, they gave praise to Lush Lashes who refused to give up until the very end.
In total contrast with Manning, it seemed that Murtagh was able to have Halfway To Heaven in the right place throughout the race. He remained in second position until he felt it was time to break away from the rest of the field. Taking his eighth victory for the weekend, Murtagh proved that he is a jockey who researches the field before racing, riding each horse racing event differently, and having the ability to anticipate the race before the starting gates have even opened. This has given him an edge over the rest of the field, but on Sunday he was surrounded by a field of brilliant jockeys. He did not allow himself to be pressured, but just raced to the best of his abilities and let Halfway To Heaven do the rest.
The Nassau Stakes was a successful racing event for Halfway To Heaven, Murtagh and O’Brian, making their presence felt and leaving their mark on the weekend’s activities. So much attention has been put on O’Brian, with everyone holding their breath to see if he can secure the world record for Group 1 wins in a season, and looking at the way his horses and jockeys have been performing, it should be a goal that won’t be too hard to reach.