Mujaazef primed for feature glory
A year on from the success that catapulted Danny Mullins into the spotlight, Rock And Roll Kid faces a demanding assignment as he bids to secure back-to-back victories in the Topaz Mile EBF Handicap.
While the partnership overcame a poor draw to storm clear in the feature 12 months ago, they have much more to contend with now.
Rock And Roll Kid is drawn widest of all in stall one, has to concede weight to all bar one of his 17 opponents, and, when you factor in the apprentice's reduced claim along with the horse's increased rating, must compete off a 9lb higher mark.
Notwithstanding the promise of his second outing of the season at The Curragh in June, Tony Mullins' gelding hasn't shown enough to suggest he will be up to the task.
Maundy Money, a real Galway specialist, looks to have a bit less to do at the moment.
David Marnane's seven-year-old chased home Rock And Roll Kid in 2009, and is expected to improve on recent efforts to make the frame again.
The Eoin Doyle-trained Sixteen Forty Two is another for the place market. Twice a winner from four outings this term, Sixteen Forty Two received 5lbs for his latest triumph at Bellewstown. Off a fair 8st 12lbs, he doesn't look out of this.
That said, the three-year-old Mujaazef is fancied to trump them all. None of that age group has won the prestigious handicap since 2004, but five of the previous six did go their way. Mujaazef's handler Kevin Prendergast supplied one of those, and his 2008 winner Celtic Dane went very close as a three-year-old in 2007.
A son of Dubawi, Mujaazef was a comprehensive winner of his maiden on soft ground in the autumn. He again scored on slow going on his reappearance at Cork in April, and has continued to progress with three runner-up finishes in handicap company.
At Leopardstown last time, he got shuffled back early on, as the eventual winner Money Trader stole a march on him turning in. From the plum draw on the rail, Declan McDonogh should be able to prevent that happening tonight, and Mujaazef's confirmed stamina is sure to stand to him off a guaranteed strong pace.
In the previous Topaz Handicap, My Valley is attempting to win the two-miler for a remarkable third time in four years. Successful four times in all at the track, Pat Fahy's mare was a gallant second in the race 12 months ago.
On that occasion, Conor O'Farrell claimed seven off 77 on her, so she demands serious respect tonight with the able Shane Gorey taking three off 67. My Valley hasn't run off such a low mark since winning twice at the meeting three years ago.
Typically, the eight-year-old hasn't been setting the world alight in her pre-Galway outings, but she is still expected to be too strong for Aidan O'Brien's Don Leone. In first-time blinkers, that three-year-old Killarney maiden winner is interesting.
Elsewhere on the card, Nintytwo Team is fancied to defy his inexperience in the Latin Quarter Steeplechase. Also successful at the Festival in 2007, Andrew Lynch's mount spent two and a half years on the sidelines before returning to the track in February.
Initially, he held his own over flights, before excelling when sent to Fontwell on his second chasing start in June.
Nintytwo Team will need to build on that now against more experienced rivals, including last year's winner Natal, but his fencing looked sharp and he can only be better for the experience.
In the opener, Dermot Weld's Universal Truth is difficult to oppose on the pick of his form, while He's Got Rhythm appeals in the Caulfield Industrial Athlone Handicap. With just one win in 32 starts, Marnane's Invincible Spirit gelding is hardly the most prolific, but he is consistent and may be due a result.
5.10 -- Universal Truth (Nap)
5.45 -- Nintytwo Team
6.20 -- My Valley
7.00 -- Mujaazef
7.35 -- Zaminast
8.05 -- He's Got Rhythm
8.35 -- Purple Land