O'Brien clan to rule in Roscommon
A quartet of the esteemed Ballydoyle O'Briens will grace Roscommon tonight, although regulars at the western venue may have to wait until tomorrow to see the family's most prolific operator right now on duty.
Since last Tuesday, Sarah O'Brien has had five bumper rides. At Limerick on Saturday, she took her winning tally to four aboard the tail-swishing mare Rosshaven Lady. The one occasion on which she has suffered defeat in that time came when she was thwarted by just a short head aboard Kalopsia at Down Royal last Friday week.
The only amateur rider in the clan, O'Brien's strike-rate is reminiscent of the halcyon days in the 1990s when her grandfather Joe Crowley dominated the bumper domain, as did her mother Anne Marie and her father Aidan when they took over the licence.
Aidan and Anne Marie rode plenty of those winners, likewise Anne Marie's sister Frances, who became the first female champion in 1995 before doubling up in 1996.
Sarah O'Brien may or may not have long-term title aspirations to emulate her aunt and Nina Carberry. Right now her strike-rate of four wins from six rides compares impressively alongside the 4-14 of reigning champion Patrick Mullins, with whom she shares the early championship lead.
To that end, bearing in mind that she is operating to a level-stake profit in excess of 12 points, keep an eye on tomorrow's card, with her father responsible for two un-raced entrants in the bumper. Tonight, her elder brother Joseph is tipped to deliver the nap vote aboard Father Christmas.
The Bernardini colt didn't show too much on his sole outing last year but he shaped encouragingly on his Leopardstown return in April, staying on purposefully over a mile to be second to Sacrificial. He steps up to 10 furlongs for tonight's three-year-olds' maiden, and he ought to take a bit of stopping.
In the juvenile edition, Galway Bay should prove a formidable rival for the up-and-coming Johnny Levins. The Vale Of York colt has been placed in two starts, latterly keeping on to be second to Argentero in a six-furlong Listed race at Naas on Monday.
If Gary Carroll's mount has recovered sufficiently for that, then he is the one to beat, with fair sorts such as Greyscape and Escondida sure to keep him honest. Over jumps, Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh should collect with Upazo in the novices' chase.
Also of interest is Gordon Elliott's Speed Demon in the beginners' contest. Bryan Cooper's mount was pretty frustrating over flights but could be far more suited to this job.