Andover-based handler Ralph Beckett was all smiles at Naas on Sunday after his eight-year-old gelding Air Pilot got the better of his four rivals in the Group 3 Dr Vincent O’Brien Centenary Alleged Stakes.
All eyes were on the returning Derby runner-up US Army Ranger, who ended last season with a trio of below par runs.
As expected the Ken Condon-trained Success Days went to the front in the hands of Shane Foley. The English challenger tracked US Army Ranger through in fourth for much of the contest.
With the tap well and truly turned just over two furlongs out, the leader took a couple of lengths out of his field.
Yet, Air Pilot gradually came with a withering run down the outside under Fran Berry to challenge and got up to lead in the final strides with a head being the winning margin.
US Army Ranger could only muster a distant three and a quarter-length third under Ryan Moore on his seasonal bow.
A son of Zamindar, Air Pilot adds a third Group 3 to his resume and has been highly tried during the last two seasons.
Beckett said: “I think the last time I was here Klairon Davis was running over hurdles when I was with Arthur Moore. It’s a great track and we imagined that it would suit him well.
“You can always rely on these old geldings to get you out of jail when things aren’t going great. He’s a great old campaigner and probably has another day or two in him.
It’s a great track and we imagined that it would suit him well
“This is his level, a Group Three with soft ground.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Alice Springs made her return to action in the Group 3 Gladness Stakes.
A dual Group 1-winner last term, she raced just in behind the leader Blue De Vega under Moore.
Although getting the better of that rival she was run down late on by the Fozzy Stack-trained Diamond Fields who got up to clinch the prize by half a length.