Wednesday 22 November 2017

Smullen heads for grand finale with ton up

Pat Smullen rides at Leopardstown today
Pat Smullen rides at Leopardstown today
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Pat Smullen heads for Leopardstown's two-day finale after securing a second successive century of domestic turf season wins via last night's 16/1 Dundalk victory on Marise.

Mick Kinane is the only other Flat jockey to clock 100 or more winners in a campaign in recent times, recording 103 in 2003.

Last year, Smullen topped that by five, and he could bypass it again en route to being crowned champion for an eighth time.

The frequency with which Dermot Weld's stable jockey tops the pile - Kinane was champion on 13 occasions - is a tribute to the consistent standard of excellence that prevails at Rosewell House on the Curragh.

Weld and Smullen have enjoyed another excellent year, Free Eagle and Fascinating Rock providing blue-chip highlights at Ascot. With Free Eagle set to be retired to the National Stud following one more outing in either Japan or Hong Kong, the quest for the stable's next generation of flag-bearers takes on renewed urgency.

A raft of their representatives over the next two days fall into the potentially exciting bracket. Tomorrow, in particular, they could be the team to follow.

Ebediyin and Waitaki are juveniles of considerable promise, while Tested is also going to have a big say in the Knockaire Stakes.

Waitaki is one of 15 in a competitive fillies' maiden. On her Naas debut, the daughter of Invincible Spirit emerged with credit when second to her more fancied stablemate, Kalisma.

That constituted a fine start, so she ought to go one better now. Of the others that have run, Joe Murphy's Flying Fairies is a real threat, while Ballydoyle's regally-bred newcomers Ring The Bell and Somehow are two to note in the market.

In the Listed Eyrefield Stakes, Aidan O'Brien's Landofhopeandglory sets the standard on track form. The High Chaparral colt chased home Glamorous Approach at Newmarket last time, and is likely to be a decent middle-distance prospect for the champion trainer-elect.

Jim Bolger's Cork winner Moonlight Magic is also respected, but Ebediyin is a smashing individual that might be the one to keep on side for now. A Raven's Pass half-brother to the smart Ebanoran and Edelpour, Ebediyin was a narrow but snug winner on his Galway debut last month.

The form of the race is solid and it is no mean feat to win first time up at Galway, so he is fancied to build on the performance under Smullen.

Tested is on something of an atonement mission in the €47,000 Listed race. At Tipperary last time, she passed the post a short-head to the good over Sovereign Debt, only to be justifiably demoted for impeding the runner-up.

Sovereign Debt returns once again for Dandy Nicholls and Chris Hayes, having since run well at Newmarket over a trip that stretched his stamina.

This seven-furlong affair will be more to his liking, but he is five pounds worse off with Tested. That could be crucial, likewise any rain that falls on ground that is already slow.

Tested is in her element in the mud and has plenty going for her. Iveagh Gardens is also interesting on her return.

Charles O'Brien's filly hasn't run since conquering Found at odds of 25/1 in deep ground at the Curragh in May. If she runs to a similar level here, she ought to be thereabouts.

Willie Mullins will strive to emulate Clondaw Warrior's 2014 November Handicap triumph with his Irish Cesarewitch winner Digeanta. Billy Lee's mount has an obvious chance, but the British raider Guard Of Honour gets the nod to go one better than his staying-on second in the Curragh race.

Of Weld's runners at Leopardstown today, the game Zannda is trusted to continue her gradual ascent in the Listed Trigo Stakes. The Azamour filly loves to get her toe in and should be too good for this field if she runs to her usual level.

Of the weekend's two jumps fixtures at Wexford and Galway, tomorrow's spread at the latter venue boasts more quality. The maiden hurdle that gets proceedings under way could prove to be a cracking contest.

Jetstream Jack, Mall Dini, Archive are all useful sorts, but Noel Meade's Disko is the one to follow. The oversized grey split Bellshill and Modus in a Grade One at Punchestown, form that should be good enough to see him collect on his hurdle bow.

The day's nap vote falls to Loughaderra Prince in the bumper. Alan Fleming's charge showed up really encouragingly when third at Listowel, and he can build on that here for Finny Maguire.

Irish Independent

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