Saturday 20 January 2018

Ceol can call tune for Mullins

Thomas Kelly

Willie Mullins continues to fly high on both sides of the Irish Sea and, having broken his Royal Ascot duck thanks to the victories of Simenon, the champion jumps trainer bids to claim his second Flat win of the domestic campaign at Ballinrobe this evening.

Mullins enjoyed a rare two-year-old winner with the impressive success of Blue Bullet at Cork earlier this month and he is now hoping to double his tally for the season with Ceol Rua in the opening maiden.

Progressive in novice hurdles over the winter, the seven-year-old was last seen slipping up when travelling strongly in a lucrative event at the Punchestown Festival.

A former bumper winner, the mare should have no problem with the forecast soft ground and Pat Smullen's mount may have too much firepower in the conditions for Sword Of Honour, which was a respectable third on his first start in this code at Tramore.

The Closutton handler is also represented in the National Hunt action on the mixed card, with Chiltern Hills attempting to translate her useful bumper form to timber in the two-mile maiden hurdle. A winner of a mares bumper at Wexford, the five-year-old was subsequently a credible third in a two-and-a-half-mile bumper at Listowel and, provided she adapts to her new discipline, she can keep Miradane at bay.

The John Madden & Sons Handicap Hurdle looks a tricky puzzle to solve with much of the attention to focus on top-weight Nurse Ryan, which accounted for the re-opposing Rockazar at Down Royal.

As a six-year-old, the course and distance winner has plenty of scope for improvement but it may be just worth taking a chance for a lighter weight which also has course form.

Split Ear won a handicap at this venue two years ago and ran a race full of promise last month when fifth to Iron Duke at Cork. The only slight concern is that the selection has shown a liking for good ground, but with only 10-7 on his back, the 10-year-old is worth taking a chance on.

As for the earlier contests on the Flat, Golden Acorn took a significant step forward at Leopardstown last week and Andrew Oliver's inmate looks the one they all have to beat in the fillies maiden over nine furlongs.

Liberty Love went close to following up his win at Wolverhampton when just touched off at Wexford last month, and while he will probably start favourite for the Michael & Peggy Dowd Memorial Handicap, the Tony Martin-trained Sughera represents better value.

The five-year-old, a winner over hurdles at Tramore, has had very few outings over a staying trip on the level and the fact that Smullen has been asked to do the steering is an eye-catching jockey booking.

Irish Independent

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