Monday 22 January 2018

Aggression can help Smullen close the gap on title rivals

Pat Smullen. Photo: PA
Pat Smullen. Photo: PA

Johnny Ward

The low-key season Dermot Weld is having means Pat Smullen's fight to be champion jockey appears not to be the formality that it previously seemed.

The brilliant County Offaly rider, however, is in great demand from outside stables and Michael O'Callaghan accounts for three of the rider's five mounts this evening. One of them, Aggression, is given the nap vote in the sprint handicap at Navan.

A winner of a nursery last year, he has shaped quite well when in the money the last two times, yet his sluggish breaks are making life tough. This track gives him a bit more time to get going, with its stiff, tiring finish.

Unusually, the most lucrative heat is the Foran Equine Irish EBF Auction Maiden. Michael Grassick's Verhoyen is verging on frustrating but his experience is a positive now against seven un-raced foes and Sankari Royale, which clearly has to improve.

The classy contest this evening is the rated sprint and perhaps Music Box can confirm her rate of progress. Aidan O'Brien is not afraid to run a filly in form and this is her 11th run, having made her debut only last March.

Peter Fahey has enjoyed a good run and High Kicker takes the eye in the nightcap under Billy Lee.

Cork's Jumps offering is uninspiring in the main but the feature 20 Year Celebration Dowling Security Hurdle sees some smart hurdlers - albeit having a bit to prove - fight it out.

Given Rashaan's lifeless run last week, and that he gives 10lb to Pique Sous, the grey is preferred for Willie Mullins, though he is clearly far from bulletproof.

A field of 19 fight out the Matchbook All-Star Break Mares Handicap Hurdle, replete with dead wood. The father-and-son Mullins duo of Tom and David could take this with Lockeen Girl.

This would be a welcome winner for the trainer, without one since early April.

Irish Independent

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