Saturday 17 March 2018

O'Brien nets double to close gap

Thomas Kelly

Joseph O'Brien took the riding honours as the three jockeys engaged in the fight for the apprentices' title race stoked up the fires at Dundalk.

All three got on the scoreboard, but O'Brien struck twice to reach 35 winners, two behind Gary Carroll and Ben Curtis, with just four meetings on the all-weather track to go.

Memphis Tennessee suggested he could move on to better things next season with an emphatic victory in the first division of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

Aidan O'Brien's juvenile (11/10 favourite) was partnered by his son, back from an enforced holiday, who brought him with a smooth run down the outside to win going away by a length and a half.

"It's nice to be back with a winner. Hopefully he'll be a nice horse next year. He was just a little bit green," said O'Brien Jnr.

He completed his double when forcing Eddie Harty's Mr Pianist (7/2) home by a short head in a desperately tight finish to the Christmas Party Packages At Dundalk Apprentice Handicap.

Carroll hit back when Youm Mutamiez (5/2) took the Maiden for the Paul Deegan yard, travelling sweetly to the front two furlongs out and going clear to score by two and a half lengths.

"We've always thought a bit of him. That's him for the year and we'll bring him back for something like the Gladness Stakes. He'll learn a lot from it and will improve," Deegan said.

Curtis made his mark when Pat Martin's always-prominent Crystal Belle took the Nursery by a length.

Johnny Murtagh kept his hopes of the main jockeys' title alive with a double, landing the second division of the juvenile maiden on David Wachman's Imperial Rome (8/1) and following up on Mark Johnston's raider Herostatus (6/4 favourite) in the Crowne Plaza Leading Jockey & Trainer Championship Handicap.

Meanwhile, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has welcomed a statement by the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) that they have no objection to a doubling of the rate of betting tax on the basis that it would also be applied across all platforms, including offshore operations.

This was the central recommendation in the report by economist Colm McCarthy entitled 'Financing the Irish Racing Industry', submitted to the Department of Finance last month.

According to IBA chairperson Sharon Byrne, her group has "no issue with the tax going up as long as it goes up everywhere". This follows previous statements by Paddy Power and Betfair that they have no objection to paying tax on their Irish and online telephone business provided it was applied consistently.

HRI's Brian Kavanagh stated: "I am pleased to see the IBA aligning itself to the position which Horse Racing Ireland has consistently promoted, namely a licensing system for all betting operators targeting the Irish market, with an appropriate rate of tax.

"Given recent developments in other jurisdictions where offshore betting operations have been successfully licensed and regulated, there should be no further barrier to the introduction of similar arrangements in Ireland.

"The introduction of such a system at the higher rate of betting tax, which has been provided for in the Finance Act 2009, is the only way to protect jobs in the betting industry and secure funding for the horse and greyhound industries without recourse to central exchequer funding."

Irish Independent

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