Wednesday 21 March 2018

Sharkayla can keep McCullagh flying high

ockey Niall McCullagh. Leopardstown Racecourse, Leopardstown, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
ockey Niall McCullagh. Leopardstown Racecourse, Leopardstown, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Niall McCullagh, overlooked for John Oxx's Akeed Mofeed in Saturday's Irish Derby, but, nonetheless, enjoying yet another fine campaign, has got two decent mounts for his chief employer at Leopardstown this evening.

With 13 winners up, the veteran boasts a top-10 position in the jockeys' table and Sharkayla is fancied to help him maintain that status in tonight's juvenile fillies' maiden. On her debut here over six furlongs, the Aga Khan-owned daughter of Zamindar showed up well all the way into the straight, only giving best in the end to Pedro The Great and Wexford Opera.

While the winner failed to build on that in the Railway Stakes at the weekend, the testing conditions at the Curragh might have had a bearing on his performance, so it may be unwise to read too much into his tame defeat. Ultimately, Sharkayla ran with plenty of promise, and can justify the nap selection over an extra furlong now if she improves at all for the outing.

Kevin Prendergast's Reglisse, a sluggish third here over seven furlongs on her debut, looks the main danger of those that have run, with the Ballydoyle newcomers Il Palazzo and Snow Queen two to monitor in the market.

In the Cross Charity Handicap, McCullagh is on Oxx's unexposed three-year-old Cropley, but the Paul Deegan-trained Filatore is preferred here. Chris Hayes' mount needs to reverse placings with Cropley from when they filled the minors behind the smart Ursa Major at headquarters, but he appeals as the more forward-going of the two. Earlier, Bogini should make the most of a decent opportunity to complete a hat-trick for Rathangan's Maurice O'Callaghan in the six-runner conditions race, while the in-form duo Shane Foley and Andy Oliver combine with Hard Core Debt in the juvenile winners' race.

With Jim Bolger's course-and-distance winner Einsteins Folly being joined by first-timers from Aidan O'Brien and Dermot Weld, this won't be easily won. Nonetheless, Hard Core Debt, sixth behind the more experienced Einsteins Folly on his first start, turned in a commanding display to score at Sligo subsequently and his handler can do no wrong right now.

The concluding staying maiden for amateur riders is likely to see Dare To Doubt go off favourite for the father-and-son team of Willie and Patrick Mullins.

A decent performer over hurdles, Dare To Doubt was runner-up to Whatever Jacksays at this venue last month, but it might be worth taking a chance on the Michael Winters-trained Missunited, a dual bumper winner that scored most recently over hurdles at Listowel.

Meanwhile, Prendergast's La Collina is to return to action in the next two months after suffering a setback in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. The Curragh handler reports the filly to have recovered from the problem she had following her sixth-placed effort in the Classic.

"She came back slightly sore after the Curragh. It wasn't too good, but she's back in good shape again now," said Prendergast. "We just haven't laid out any plans for her, but you'll see her out probably in the next couple of months.

"She might start back at a mile then we might stretch her a bit. Her second dam won an Irish Oaks, so she might get a trip."

Elsewhere, Sheikh Mohammed's highly-regarded Blue Corner will run next at Fairyhouse on July 15.

The once-raced Teofilo colt won a 10-furlong maiden at The Curragh in May by five lengths and was supplemented for the International Stakes last weekend by his trainer Michael Halford.

However, the very soft ground prevented the three-year-old from appearing with Halford content to wait for more suitable terrain. "He'll go for a conditions race at Fairyhouse on the 15th," said Halford. "I just didn't want to risk him on the ground. He wants it decent and it was a long way from decent at the weekend.

"He might have been supplemented and some owners would maybe have wanted to run, but with Sheikh Mohammed the horse's welfare always comes first."

Irish Independent

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