Mullins gets nap vote to Tower over rivals
DANNY MULLINS, who endured a character-building first full season as Barry Connell's retained rider, is napped to take tonight's opener at Killarney in the ubiquitous yellow and blue silks aboard Martello Tower for his mother Mags.
Despite enjoying his best season to date, Mullins lost two blue-chip rides as the campaign came to a climax, with Our Conor fatally injured and The Tullow Tank prematurely roughed off due to the steroid issue that arose at Philip Fenton's yard.
With a growing team of high-calibre horses, led by The Tullow Tank, to look forward to, the 22-year-old doubtless has his best days ahead of him, and Martello Tower could yet be one of the better ones.
The six-year-old made a winning track bow in a Punchestown bumper a year ago. He didn't reappear until finishing an eye-catching fourth to Empire Of Dirt in a Listed hurdle at Naas in March, and his shrewd Goresbridge-based handler then opted to save his novice status.
She aimed him instead at a winners' race at Fairyhouse, where he duly justified favouritism by seeing off some fair prospects, including the subsequent hurdle victor Time For A Pint.
This evening, Badgerfort and Railway Tommy pose the only legitimate threats to Martello Tower in the maiden hurdle, but neither is expected to be in quite the same league.
The €30,000 McSweeney Arms Hotel Killarney National is the programme's most valuable contest. Mullins has another decent spin for a Connell-owned Fairyhouse winner in this aboard John 'Shark' Hanlon's Usuel Smurfer, but this is a far more open affair.
Preference is for Terence O'Brien's She's Got Grit, which lost little in defeat, despite failing to complete her hat-trick when second to Burn And Turn in a mares' chase at Punchestown.
Paul Townend's mount is 6lb higher here, but she has the scope to defy that.
She's Got Grit's regular rider Adrian Heskin switches to Enda Bolger's banks specialist Love Rory, so it will be interesting to see if the market deems that significant.
A rare alliance between Edward O'Grady and Ruby Walsh for Sailors Warn in the Laurels Pub & Restaurant is expected to yield a dividend, while the Gold Cup-winning duo of Jim Culloty and Davy Russell have two live chances in Vaxalco and Company Coming.
Vaxalco has been frustrating, but the ground turned on him at Sandown last time.
He remains well treated if conditions hold up in the International Hotel Handicap Hurdle.