Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 22 February 2018

O'Brien says he'll 'struggle' to catch leaders in title race

Jockey Donnacha O'Brien. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Jockey Donnacha O'Brien. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Donnacha O'Brien is quietly fancied by many to give both Colin Keane and champion Pat Smullen a real rattle in the Flat riders' title race - but the youngster is far from optimistic.

With sister Ana out injured, the son of Aidan is picking up some rides she might have had for both his father and brother Joseph, though he is still 19 winners behind the in-form Keane.

With Dermot Weld back in form, Pat Smullen will be hopeful he can retain his crown, but O'Brien was only trading at 5/1 on Sunday. However, Paddy Power eased him to eights yesterday, with Keane cut to 10/11. O'Brien, champion apprentice last year, said: "I am going to try ride as many winners as possible but realistically I'll struggle to get near Colin and Pat."

Difficult

Smullen, an uncle-in-law of O'Brien, trails Keane by 10, and his boss Weld concedes it will be an uphill task. "Pat will find it very difficult to retain his title as a lot of the two-year-olds that I have are more staying-bred and I won't rush them for later this year," the trainer said.

"I'm hoping we might have a Derby horse for next year among them. We don't have a big, strong team of three-year-olds ready to run."

Meanwhile, God apparently loves a trier and few would begrudge Alluringly a victory over Enable - behind which she has finished on all three occasions they have clashed - in tomorrow's Darley Yorkshire Oaks.

The daughter of Fastnet Rock won a Listed race at Gowran recently for Aidan O'Brien but finished behind Enable at Chester in May in the Epsom Oaks and Curragh equivalent. John Gosden also runs Coronet but stablemate Enable's biggest threat might come from Roger Varian's Nezwaah.

O'Brien will rely upon Actress as he seeks a first triumph in the Sky Bet Lowther Stakes, in which she will be joined by the Ken Condon-trained Mamba Noire.

Happy Like A Fool will attempt to go one better than at Royal Ascot when she steps up in trip for the six-furlong Group Two.

Meanwhile, Ger Lyons expects Sunday's exciting Curragh maiden winner Gobi Desert to race elsewhere. The Oasis Dream-bred, backed into 3/1 favourite, scored nicely from the well-bred Threeandfourpence in the colours of Annette O'Callaghan of Yeomanstown Stud.

"More than likely, sadly, he'll be sold to Hong Kong," Lyons said. "I'll be lucky to hold to him but the owners are traders and there is excellent prize-money in Hong Kong.

"The owners have been inundated with calls of interest but at least they are holding onto him for the time being."

Threeandfourpence, a War Front brother to Hit It A Bomb, delighted Aidan O'Brien with his run and he expects that the strapping juvenile will progress with racing.

Drainage

There is no Flat racing at Sligo this year, its drainage issues quite well-documented and only National Hunt combat being held there, as it was last evening.

However, after heavy rain in the region, Ruby Walsh was deeply impressed with the terrain at a track that often suffered badly, quite possibly getting more rainfall than any other course in Ireland.

Walsh was talking after his mount Shanning justified long-odds-on favouritism on her Irish debut in the two-mile maiden hurdle. He said: "It's only yielding out there. I'd say it's all draining into the car-park.

"I'm very surprised at how dry it is. The old Sligo would have been a bog.This Sligo isn't a bog anymore, which is great. They may buy a watering system now!"

Irish Independent

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