Bank on Drive Time to motor home for Mullins in Killarney
THE return of the former Howard Johnson-trained novice hurdler Drive Time to Flat action should be one of the highlights of Day Two of the Killarney Festival this evening.
This smart, if injury-prone, gelding was originally trained by Jim Bolger on the level, winning twice in the summer of 2009 -- the first of which was a defeat of the classy Blackstairmountain at Leopardstown and the second over this course and distance.
After that, the son of King Cugat was bought by Graham and Andrea Wylie, who put him into training with Johnson across the Irish Sea, where he won two of his four runs over hurdles. Following the last of those outings, Drive Time was sidelined with injury before making a spectacular return to action after a year off by winning a handicap hurdle on his Willie Mullins debut at Punchestown in April.
The champion trainer now turns the seven-year-old's attention to the Flat for the Killarney Veterinary Clinic Race for Qualified Riders, in which son Patrick gets the leg-up, and it's hard to look beyond the favourite, despite the presence of Whatever Jacksays and Mart Lane.
Mullins should also be on the mark in the featured Christy McSweeney Memorial Novice Chase, in which Ruby Walsh has been booked for his progressive Sin Palo. The eight-year-old overcame a final-fence blunder to make a successful start to life over the larger obstacles at Kilbeggan, and is one of five winners from last time out in the six-runner line-up.
Consistent mare Definite Class will be a major threat, having carried Nina Carberry to a victory on the level at Tramore most recently.
The Mullins clan aren't the only father and son combination who are likely to feature in the winner's enclosure as Aidan and Joseph O'Brien have excellent prospects of landing the conditions event over an extended mile. The Ballydoyle team rely on Learn, which had some smart form as a two-year-old, namely a close fourth in the Group One Criterium International.
While the son of Galileo hasn't been able to repeat those highs in his two runs this term, the colt should be still good enough to beat Regulation and Elusive Ridge.
O'Brien runs Wonderful, an Irish Oaks entrant, in the opening fillies maiden, but this exposed sort ran a very disappointing race last week at Leopardstown and a safer option might be Bolger's Mona Brown, a close second on her Leopardstown debut.
Bolger also has decent prospects with Miss Forde in the 11-furlong handicap, in which Arthur Moore has a rare runner on the Flat with Positive Vibes. Third at Roscommon last week, Andrew Thornton's mount gets the narrow vote.
Sunday's convincing Sligo winner Harangue will attract plenty of support in the Malton Handicap Hurdle, but this finale is a real open affair and a chance is taken on Tony Martin's Sughera, with Walsh an eye-catching booking.