Smullen on double to extend title lead
Former senior title-holder Pat Smullen and defending champion apprentice Gary Carroll boosted their chances of again topping the end-of-season lists, as they shared three well-backed winners in Listowel yesterday.
Offaly native Smullen departed the third session of the Harvest Festival in pole position to reclaim the crown from Johnny Murtagh, with a 38/1 double courtesy of Hallie's Comet and Sean Og Coulston pushing his tally in the current campaign to the 77 mark.
Smullen has steadily increased his lead to seven over both Murtagh and Fran Berry and those who pinned their faith in him here had few enough worries in either event.
The Dermot Weld-trained favourite Hallie's Comet dominated the Fillies Handicap once given her head straightening for home and then John Coleman's Sean Og Coulston made light of the drop back in trip for the Brandon Hotel Handicap.
Fifth to Smart Striking in a similar event at Galway in late July, Hallie's Comet seemed much more effective this time over an extra furlong and on easier ground as she travelled sweetly throughout, before taking command from School Holidays in this opening leg of the Jackpot.
Fears that the rain overnight may have militated against the chances of Sean Og Coulston improving on his close second to Priomhbhean at Leopardstown earlier this month proved unfounded, when the 5/1 chance quickened nicely a furlong out for Smullen to pick off both previous course and distance victor Thats A Fret and Sunday's Curragh scorer Kammaan, before that pair collided and were passed by Dundrum Dancer.
Ben Curtis, who rode Thats A Fret, was cautioned for careless riding by the stewards following an enquiry involving the third and fourth horses, thus escaping any sanction as he tries to fend off Gary Carroll's persistent challenge for the junior accolade.
Curtis' lead is down to one (27 to 26) after Carroll landed the opening Jet O'Carroll Memorial Maiden for his boss Michael Halford on Defining Year, which was popular in the ring from 5/1 to 7/2 before landing the touch for Cork owner-breeders Claire Riordan and Kieran Coughlan.
Eagle Canyon then was hot favourite to push third-placed claimer Joseph O'Brien past the 21-winner barrier in the Listowel Arms Hotel Maiden but never really threatened as Lady O'Reilly's home-bred newcomer Rising Wind emerged best for Chris Hayes at 20/1 in a blanket finish.
The bookmakers likewise got a result in the featured Supporters Club Lartigue Hurdle when 14/1 chance Sword Fish responded to a determined ride by Alan Crowe to narrowly deny the prize to John O'Shea's early-June course and distance heroine Leblon.
"He's a bit tricky and wouldn't give you his best every day. Christy Roche freshened him up and this was his Derby," remarked Frank Berry, racing manager to winning owner JP McManus.
Barry Murtagh was taken to hospital with concussion and a facial injury following the first-flight fall of Asiya, while Leblon's locally born partner Sean McDermott soon followed by ambulance too, after taking a heavy fall from first-fence casualty Curragh Grey in the Kerry Petroleum Handicap Chase, reportedly suffering from a suspected fracture of a vertebra and a damaged knee.