Innisfree again proved superior to Shekhem following their meeting in a Galway maiden, when coming out on top after a great tussle in the Group Two Beresford Stakes at the Curragh.
Shekhem was sweaty and keen in front under Chris Hayes, but to his credit he determinedly dug in when the Donnacha O’Brien-ridden Innisfree threatened to comprehensively eclipse him in the final quarter mile.
Continuing Aidan O’Brien’s domination of the mile heat, Innisfree eventually won it for the stable for the ninth year in succession, by a neck.
Donnacha O’Brien is now two behind Colin Keane (89 v 91) in the race to be 2019 champion jockey whilst the layers were looking to 2020 when it comes to Innisfree.
Paddy Power, Betfair and BoyleSports go 33/1 first show for the Derby.
“It went smooth. Chris (Hayes on Shekhem) went a nice even gallop and my lad travelled lovely. He’s got plenty of pace, brought me into the race really nicely and stuck his head out the last furlong," said Donnacha O'Brien.
“I was impressed with Shekhem in Listowel when he won and I knew he’s no slouch. I knew he’d take a bit of beating but my lad has improved from his maiden as well.
“I think there is still a bit of improvement in him, and nicer ground will see him step up again. He’s a nice horse going forward.
“He’s got a bit of boot and is not the kind of horse I’d be saying I can’t wait to get him over a mile and a half.”
Innisfree is 33/1 (from 50/1) with Betfair for the Dewhurst.