It took Ger Lyons almost three years to win his second Group 1 race in Ireland following a maiden success in the Flying Five Stakes with Ardhoomey back in 2016. That came five years after winning the Middle Park at Newmarket in 2011.
In the space of just 36 days, the County Meath trainer has now saddled two Classic winners in Siskin and Even So. They have been for major owners too in the shape of Juddmonte’s Prince Khalid Abdullah and the Magniers of Coolmore fame.
If success for Siskin in the Irish 2000 Guineas was only a matter of proving stamina, then Even So landing the Irish Oaks proved something of a surprise.
Returned at 10/1 and a relatively unfancied joint-fifth in the market, the daughter of Camelot only needed pushing clear in the closing stages when accounting for 2/1 favourite Cayenne Pepper by a couple of lengths.
In winning the Irish Oaks, Even So paid huge compliments to two fillies that weren’t at The Curragh to contest it. On her penultimate start, she kept on into a never threatening fifth in the Irish 1000 Guineas finishing fourth lengths behind Peaceful and two off Fancy Blue in second.
The runner-up scrambled home in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly, so one that one race has produced three Classic winners. Observers of the Naas Oaks Trial could have told you that Even So showed guts when tackled in that run by Laburnum, but rallied and prevailed in their battle by a neck.
Ger Lyons now in elite company
While winning multiple Irish Classics in the campaign has become a habit for O’Brien, what Ger Lyons has achieved this year should not go unheralded. He has become the only other trainer in almost a quarter of a century to win more than one of the big three-year-old races in the same season.
Before Siskin and Even So, you have to go back to Dermot Weld in 1996 to find a stable outside Ballydoyle containing multiple Emerald Isle Classic winners in it. Since the Irish St Leger lost this status by opening itself up to older runners in 1983, only six trainers have managed to pull that off.
Ger Lyons is part of that exclusive club now alongside the late Sir Henry Cecil, fellow British handler and knight Sir Michael Stoute, Aidan and Vincent O’Brien, and Weld. His yard is nothing like as powerful as any of those at their height, so that puts his feats into perspective.
The fact that high-profile connections trust him to bring on some of their most talented horses speaks volumes.
“It was lovely to watch, [but] very different to Siskin,” Ger Lyons said after Even So won the Irish Oaks. “I couldn’t watch him at all, but I watched this one and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“She’s a filly I always loved and physically she has transformed from race to race. I loved the way she did it at Naas, but I have to admit I didn’t think it was good enough to win a Classic.
“That said, I knew all season that if we had an Oaks filly it was her. I was quietly confident she would be involved in the finish, but winning is a bonus.”
Analysis: Short turnaround no excuse as Even So hits Classic heights
Jamie Clark, Horsebetting.com Editor
You have to tip your hat to Ger Lyons and his quiet, understated manner. Whether the fillies contested the Epsom Oaks or some other event beforehand, the calendar effected them all.
A fortnight turnaround between two Classics is asking too much it seems. While Even So had her previous run in a similar timeframe, she progressed when others didn’t.
Epsom Oaks runner-up Ennistymon, sent off second-favourite by bookmakers at The Curragh was never put in the race. Snow, under questionable front-running tactics by jockey Michael Hussey, couldn’t follow-up on her Munster Oaks victory.
While Ballydoyle’s bullets misfired, there was the Ger Lyons filly catching the eye under Colin Keane. Even So was a worthy winner of the Irish Oaks.
O’Brien is unaccustomed to sharing the spotlight with other trainers on the home front. This has been a 13th season where he has saddled two or more Classic winners.
Nobody else has managed more than one since his Irish 2000 and 1000 Guineas and Derby treble in 1997. That is until now.
Success for another Irish yard outside of Ballydoyle at this level isn’t just refreshing but necessary. Ger Lyons has matched the mighty O’Brien in Classic terms on the home front this season.
It puts his Glenburnie Stables on the map. While O’Brien is going nowhere, the former jump jockey again makes deserved positive headlines.