O'Brien firm looks likely to have All The Answers
Sarah O'Brien is enjoying the best season of her short career and she can keep tabs on Patrick Mullins at the top of the amateur riders' table by scoring aboard All The Answers at Ballinrobe tonight.
With 10 wins to her name so far, O'Brien trails the perennial champion by just five. A title shot to follow in the footsteps of her trail-blazing aunt Frances Crowley might ultimately prove beyond her this term.
Nonetheless, with her father Aidan's jumps string continuing to grow in both size and strength under her brother Joseph's watchful eye at their home place on Carriganog Hill near Piltown, it wouldn't be too far-fetched an aspiration for her to soon launch a meaningful and sustained challenge to Mullins.
When Sarah's father was establishing himself as Irish racing's most influential young trainer in the 1990s, bumper horses were his absolute forte.
This term, the father-daughter partnership's 10 wins constitutes a massive 53pc strike-rate, which confirms pretty spectacularly that the Ballydoyle genius hasn't lost his touch with fledgling jumpers.
The 20-year-old rider's overall ratio of 43.5pc for the season to date compares similarly impressively to Mullins' 37.5pc yield, so there is no doubt that she has the potential to ruffle the title-holder's feathers.
Indeed, should her distinguished brother assume formal control of the rapidly expanding jumps string in Owning, Co Kilkenny, sooner rather than later, then it mightn't be just the champion amateur rider who finds himself looking over his shoulder.
As ever, his father Willie could be the trainer to beat in tonight's finale. Where's Me is a home-bred newcomer and any market move for the Aubrey McMahon-ridden Captain Rio filly would be significant.
Pat Fahey's Eyes Of A Tiger is another of note after running well on its bow at Galway, but All The Answers appeals as nap material. A €30,000 Kayf Tara four-year-old, JP McManus's first-time hooded gelding caught the eye when fifth behind Bachasson on its track debut over hurdles at Ballybrit.
While he was beaten 29 lengths, he travelled like a decent sort and should come on for the experience. Provided he does, and on the assumption that he will cope with the likely slow ground, then he could take plenty stopping.
Mullins' only other representative on the card might also be worth taking on in the opening mares' maiden hurdle. Ciandarragh made a belated winning debut at Kilbeggan last month. She might be up to this as well, but she isn't proven in the conditions.
Brogine is. Seamus Braddish's charge built on the promise of her previous outings to win here three weeks ago, when the subsequent assertive Cork winner Brother Gold was among her victims in third.
Brogine relished getting her toe in on that occasion, so, with the talented Jack Kennedy taking seven pounds off her back, she is fancied to go close.
Harry Kelly's Red Jacket might take the other maiden, while Paul Townend could steer Afatcat to victory in the handicap hurdle. Stephen Nolan's charge ran well to be second at Galway, and has the scope to win this off a two-pound higher mark.
In the €26,000 conditions hurdle, Brendan Duke's Punch Bag might account for a field that includes three Gordon Elliott runners. Twice successful at Limerick, the Andrew Lynch-ridden gelding looks highly progressive.