Smullen seeks Rite substitute
Pat Smullen is hoping Pale Mimosa will prove an able substitute for Rite Of Passage in Friday evening's Seamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown.
Top-class stayer Rite Of Passage won the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot three years ago and appeared as good as ever when making a winning return from well over a year off in the British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot last October.
Trainer Dermot Weld considered using Friday's Listed contest as a stepping-stone to the Gold Cup on June 20, but with conditions likely to be on the fast side, the nine-year-old is set to head straight to the Royal meeting without the aid of a prep run.
Smullen said: "I would imagine he'll go straight to Royal Ascot now.
"His whole year has been geared around the Gold Cup and we want to make sure he's in the best possible shape for that."
Pale Mimosa, who like Rite Of Passage carries the recognisable silks of Dr Ronan Lambe, has won twice from four starts and claimed a Listed event at York last summer.
She makes her first start since October in this one-mile-six-furlong test and Smullen is hoping for a solid run to kick-start her campaign.
"She was a progressive filly last year and I think this distance will suit her well," said the jockey.
"She handles top of the ground well and is a nice-actioned filly, so conditions should suit her and we'll see what happens.
"It's her first run for a while and hopefully it's just the start of a long year for her.
"She's a filly I like and I hope she'll run a good race."
Smart dual-purpose mare Missunited is nothing if not consistent and turned in her best effort on the Flat to date when filling the runner-up spot in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan last month.
Trainer Mick Winters said: "She seems in good order with herself and seems to be thriving at the moment.
"She's run well back on the Flat the last twice and gone up nearly 10lb. She's rated 100 now and entitled to have another go at a race like this.
"She gets the mares' allowance, which will hopefully help her, and we're looking forward to it.
"I'm just hoping she'll let herself down on the ground, as it's going to be fairly quick. If she does let herself down, stretches out and gallops all the way to the line, hopefully she'll run a big race.
"I'd imagine we'll give her a bit of a break and freshen her up after this race."
The highest rated horse in the field is the Aidan O'Brien-trained El Salvador, one place behind Missunited when third in the Vintage Crop Stakes.
Leading National Hunt trainer Noel Meade has a rare runner on the level in Fully Funded, while the seven-runner field is completed by Chicago, Zafarqand and Fleur De Nuit.
Chicago's trainer, Pat Shanahan, is keen to find out if a gelding operation will help the four-year-old raise his game.
"He's not long been gelded so this is his first run back. The ground might be a shade quick for him but Leopardstown tend to do a good job watering so hopefully he'll handle it all right," said Shanahan.
"We'll just see what the operation has done for him. We'll know tomorrow what affect it's had on him.
"He seems in great form so that's why we're running him. He's in the Gold Cup at Ascot so we're just trying to set him up for there and see how he's going."