Friday 13 December 2019

Mullingar to get off mark for Halford

Richie Forristal

Having scaled unprecedented heights with Casamento last season, Mick Halford can further his fledgling relationship with Sheikh Mohammed by coaxing a first win out of Mullingar at Naas this evening.

Halford's Dubawi gelding is a far more modest sort than Casamento, but the one-mile maiden at the Kildare venue should be within his compass. Of his 10 rivals that have already raced, just two -- Mafi and Hudson -- have managed first-four finishes.

Neither of those, though, have shown the same promise as the nap selection, which progressed from his first two starts to be third to Roman Flight at Limerick.

On his initial outing over a mile that day, Mullingar stayed on well to be closest at the finish. It was an effort that suggested a similar maiden would not be beyond him, and this 13-runner heat doesn't look any better. Johnny Murtagh's mount ought to prevail.

Earlier on the six-race card, Lady Wingshot should build on her debut third to land the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies' Maiden. Supported into favouritism at The Curragh on Derby day, Jim Bolger's Lawman filly raced close to the pace before giving way to a couple of smart Ballydoyle juveniles at the death. Tonight's six-furlong contest isn't as competitive as that race was, with the Denis Cullen-trained Coolnagree possibly the best of those that have run.

If Lady Wingshot reproduces the performance she turned in last time, she is certainly the one to beat.

Johnny Murtagh forgoes the fancied Joe Eile to partner Velesgo for his boss John Oxx in the Handicap. While Velesgo needs to improve to get involved on his handicap debut, it's not out of the question that he could do off a mark of just 72.


Still, Joe Eile has been consistent for Ger Lyons, and the return to seven furlongs should suit. When he ran over the trip at Naas on his penultimate start, he was a close third to Jambalaya, a horse that he meets on nine-pound better terms now.

In the preceding handicap, Lake George can add to last month's narrow Limerick win. Rory Cleary's partner has gone up three pounds, but may still be favourably treated.

Meanwhile, the Ballydoyle bandwagon sails across the Atlantic this weekend when Cape Blanco lines up in Saturday's Man o'War Stakes at Belmont Park.

Last year's Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes hero was a well-beaten sixth over a mile in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot on his latest start, but had previously performed with credit in France and Dubai.

Aidan O'Brien's four-year-old was just ahead of Gio Ponti in the World Cup at Meydan, and again goes head to head with his old rival, which is seeking a third consecutive Man o'War triumph. Jamie Spencer will be in the plate and he carries high hopes of a bold show.

"It's an interesting race. He's met Gio Ponti before and he beat him when they met in Dubai," Spencer said. "Hopefully they'll have a dry week and we'll get nice, fast ground out there.

"Obviously the trip will suit him, it's a mile and three (furlongs) and it looks a good spot for him.

"It's probably Gio Ponti's ideal trip as well, but our fellow is a high-class horse and if he can find his real form I think he'll be hard to beat.

"I haven't spoken to Aidan (since Ascot) but he (Cape Blanco) was fine after the race and I'm looking forward to it."

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