Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 18 March 2018

'Grande' day for Keane as he maintains lead over Smullen

Colin Keane. Photo: Pat Healy
Colin Keane. Photo: Pat Healy

Thomas Kelly

Colin Keane has retained his five-winner lead over Pat Smullen yesterday, with the title rivals riding one apiece at Navan yesterday.

Smullen struck first as The Broghie Man dominated the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

Having his first start since switching from Brendan Duke to Adrian Keatley, the Cityscape colt was fitted with a visor and tongue-tie for the first time.

Smullen kicked clear inside the final quarter-mile and the result was never in doubt from that point as The Broghie Man strode seven lengths clear of It's All A Joke.

"I just fed him for a week and the only thing I did was stick a tongue-tie on him. In fairness to Brendan, he had a suspicion that he rattled a bit the last day," said Keatley.

Smullen looked likely to taste further success when going clear on Excelli in the Arkle Bar Handicap, but Keane wore him down on 9/1 chance Il Piccolo Grande, which triumphed by three-and-three-quarter lengths.

Trainer Ger Lyons said: "He works really well at home, and David Spratt has joked all summer that this lad will win when you don't expect.

"It's really down to the way Colin is riding. I'm ticking off each week he's in front, and if we can get him over the line it would be fantastic."

Meanwhile, it's looking increasingly likely that dual 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill will run in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar.

Aidan O'Brien's colt, which has not tasted victory since following up his Newmarket Classic win at the Curragh, finished third in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes to Persuasive last Saturday after meeting trouble in running.

"There is a big chance Churchill will go for the Classic. He seems to have come out of Ascot very well," said O'Brien. "He jumped smart and Ryan (Moore) got him into a lovely rhythm. He just got tightened a little bit. Ryan felt he never got into top gear, but he went to the line very strong.


"He is very like Giant's Causeway. He is a miler that you would like to think will get a mile and a quarter. He is big and powerful, like those dirt horses."

Churchill may be joined in the Classic by War Decree, last seen winning a Group Three at Dundalk.

"Ryan rode War Decree in the French Derby and really liked him. We gave him a good break in the middle of the summer and just had the run at Dundalk," said O'Brien. "Donnacha (O'Brien) rode him and really liked him, he travelled well and won very easily.

"It would be his first start on dirt, but that would be interesting. This is a massive step up from that, but he seems to have come out of that well."

Highland Reel won the Turf last year and looks like a major player once more after a good run in the Champion Stakes.

"We just felt Highland Reel needed the run last week as it had been a long time since he ran. He has come out of the race well. Ryan was over the moon with him. He loves that nice ground he should get," said O'Brien.

Rhododendron and Roly Poly have a choice of engagements, and O'Brien also looks set to be well-represented in the two-year-old races in America.

"Happily had a little bit of a blip before her last run (Fillies' Mile), but she seems to be fine now. After a few days she was fine and all her bloods seem to be fine now. We were delighted with her on Arc day," said O'Brien.

"September had a nice run in the Fillies' Mile. She ran a very good race, but she didn't get a clear run. She is by Deep Impact and I think they handle quicker ground.

"Mendelssohn and US Navy Flag are in both races (Juvenile Turf and Juvenile). US Navy Flag would have the option of either and he could go on to the dirt. Mendelssohn would not have the experience of him and would probably go on the grass, but I am not sure which way yet."

Irish Independent

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