| 9.9°C Dublin

Plenty left to look forward to on Flat in Festival afterglow


Free Eagle and Pat Smullen. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post

Free Eagle and Pat Smullen. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post

Free Eagle and Pat Smullen. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post

A CHELTENHAM winner earlier in the month, Dermot Weld kicked off the Flat season with a big race double on Saturday and it proved that the master of Rosewell is going to be a very strong force for the upcoming season.

Free Eagle looks like a Classic contender that could prove to be the flag bearer for the Curragh outfit but with a string of the Aga Khan's finest as well, it's no wonder that Pat Smullen has been quoted to say how much he is looking forward to 2014.

Johnny Murtagh wasn't able to deliver a winner on the day that remembered his riding career, but the trainer won't be fretting yet as he looks to have a good team to go to war with this year and some significant new owners, including Sheikh Fahad's Qatar Racing.

Jockey wise, you'd have to imagine that it's going to be another massive year for Conor King, who stormed through the ranks last season. Once he is free from the shackles of the Leaving Cert later in the year you can just imagine him going from strength to strength, while Colin Keane is another youngster ready to step up to the big time having given the Apprentice Championship a late rattle in 2013.

Tom Madden, brother to Grand National winning jockey Niall Madden, is probably the 7lb claimer to keep an eye on, while of the more experienced lads this has the foundations of being a personal best season for Shane Foley, who has the full backing of the in-form Michael Halford who himself will be looking at breaking new ground in 2014.

Pre-Aintree, Fairyhouse and Punchestown is a hard time of year to get overexcited about the Flat season, but with Aidan O'Brien showing off plenty of his stars after racing on Sunday last and talking in glowing terms about Australia, in particular, there is certainly a lot to look forward to.