Wednesday 13 December 2017

O'Brien can land brace to boost title challenge

Lines of Battle, with Joseph O'Brien up, on their way to winning the Big Bad Bob European Breeders Fund (C & G) Maiden.
Lines of Battle, with Joseph O'Brien up, on their way to winning the Big Bad Bob European Breeders Fund (C & G) Maiden.
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Man of the moment Joseph O'Brien can enhance his chances of landing a first senior jockeys' championship by outscoring his two main rivals at Fairyhouse tonight.

Pat Smullen, the current leader with 25 winners, is the general favourite to regain his title, with Johnny Murtagh, who stripped him of the crown in 2011, on 21.

Wayne Lordan splits those two, but it is the dual champion apprentice that has the firepower to upset the old order.

While the 19-year-old is a top-priced 9/4 to do so, one layer is taking no chances by going 7/4 each of three, a uniquely understandable and fairly spineless stance all at once.

This evening, O'Brien, three of whose last four wins have been in Group One races, is taken to secure a brace to add to the 19 that he has so far ridden on the domestic scene since the Turf campaign began.

His father Aidan's pair Delight and Along are the two nominees, with Along napped in the Follow Us On Facebook Fillies' Maiden.

Jessica Harrington's Dane Street is the danger in the €10,000 10-furlong heat, having bettered the selection when third at Leopardstown in March. However, Dane Street had the benefit of a previous outing, and Along wasn't given an overly hard race on her debut. Much more is expected of her now.

In the opening 18-runner Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden for two-year-olds, Ger Lyons' Angela's Dream, second for a second time behind Cougar Ridge at Leopardstown, looks sure to put it up to Delight.

Still, the Ballydoyle filly improved a bundle from her first run to her second when filling the same spot behind Nandiga at the Curragh. If Delight makes anything like the same progress now, she will be hard to stop.

Later, Smullen can take something away from the fixture on Dermot Weld's Diplomat, a promising second to Croi An Or at Limerick first time up, in the six-furlong conditions race.

On official figures, the three-year-old has plenty to do at the weights, but he is unexposed.

In the last of the eight scheduled races, Why But Why gets the nod for Jessica Harrington and Fran Berry on his return to the Flat, now that he has been given a chance by the handicapper.

Irish Independent

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