Sport Horse Racing

Monday 22 January 2018

Smullen can keep pressure on Keane

Pat Smullen. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Pat Smullen. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Pat Smullen can enhance his title-winning credentials by taking the finale at Gowran aboard First Figaro, trained by his boss Dermot Weld, this evening.

In truth, this nightcap is a smart staying maiden. Chess Grand Master reverts from bumpers, while Charlie Stout ought to be all the better for his Roscommon outing recently. However, First Figaro's claims are most pressing.

Turned over at a short price at the Galway Festival last year, the seven-year-old returned in excellent shape to win a smart contest at Killarney. He can now begin to make up for lost time as a classy dual-code gelding.

Smullen's sextet of rides this evening is indicative of his intent in the title race and interestingly he teams up with his nephew, Joseph O'Brien, in the form of Palace Guard in the second race.

However, Jim Bolger's Meagher's Flag is very difficult to oppose here after a cracking start to his career at the Curragh.

Bolger has claims in the opening race with Dochasach but minor preference is for Empress Lyla, despite Sheila Lavery's charge having disappointed most recently.

Colin Keane, Smullen's chief rival in the title battle, has four mounts this evening, at least three of them realistic winners.

Twist Of Magic has claims in the seven-furlong handicap under the Meath rider, but marginal preference is for the Pivotal-bred Betty Loch, which seems to have a reasonable mark for Michael Halford.

Dick Brabazon, who trains at the Curragh, rarely has horses good enough to win a maiden, but Waterboy rates an exception. The Stormy River grey, which only saw action once, is promising. It is slightly concerning that he has not been witnessed publicly since a cracking start in a Navan maiden in April; perhaps Brabazon was waiting for deep ground for the three-year-old, which has the assistance of Seamus Heffernan now.

The handicap which follows, over the same distance, is really competitive. It is hard to believe that James Barrett's last winner was a year and a day ago, but he has had few runners, and a case can certainly be constructed here in favour of Shes An Art under Kevin Manning.

Drawn three, the Excellent Art filly handled heavy terrain well at Roscommon recently and could attempt to make all the running now.

Barrett also has prospects of a winner in the apprentices' handicap, Lake George generally feasible in this type of grade, but True Companion is preferred. Interestingly, Curraghboy trainer Adrian Joyce also runs Breezolini here, but Oisin Orr's mount gets the nod.

Irish Independent

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