Tuesday 11 December 2018

Smullen hoping Ellona can help him keep tabs on Keane

Pat Smullen
Pat Smullen

Thomas Kelly

Now that the winds have abated, Saturday's rescheduled fixture at Fairyhouse is free to go ahead and those who brave today's elements will be treated to the latest instalment in the race for the Flat Jockeys Championship.

Colin Keane and reigning champion Pat Smullen continue their battle for title honours at the Meath venue and both have mounts in all eight races on the card. Smullen - currently four behind Keane - will have high hopes of getting off to a flier aboard Stellar Eclipse in the opening auction maiden.

Dermot Weld's charge was no match for Kenya at Cork - form which was significantly endorsed by the Aidan O'Brien-trained winner's Killavullan Stakes win at Leopardstown on Sunday.

However, Bronze Age and Sagittarius Rising also have decent form figures to their name, while Joseph O'Brien's Castrogiovanni might represent better each-way value.

Keane has the leg-up on Sally Gap which should have plenty of followers in the six-furlong maiden, and Tom McCourt's filly - well drawn in stall two - should go close if she repeats her effort at this course two starts ago when third of 17 to Covetous over seven furlongs.

Ellona is one of Smullen's best chances of a winner in the six-furlong nursery. A model of consistency for Paul Deegan, she finished runner-up to a Haunting Vocals at Gowran last time and while Keane's mount Art Of Unity looks a live danger, the fact that Noel Meade's top weight must concede seven pounds to Ellona tips the scales to Smullen.

Weld and Smullen also team up with Alaykha in the 12-furlong fillies maiden, but she faces stiff opposition from Willie Codd's decent handicap hurdler Tellthemnuttin, which has Keane in the saddle for her Flat debut.

Meanwhile, Aidan O'Brien has 12 horses in contention for Saturday's Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster as he seeks a record-breaking 26th Group One winner this year. Derby hopes Saxon Warrior and The Pentagon head the Ballydoyle battalion, while Jim Bolger has entered Verbal Dexterity and Theobald.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Devils Bride is the sole Irish contender in Sunday's Monet's Garden Old Roan Chase at Aintree. Michael O'Leary's 10-year-old ran well for a long way in the Galway Plate until falling at the last, but then struggled at Killarney.

Malcolm Jefferson's Arkle Trophy runner-up Cloudy Dream could make his seasonal reappearance in the contest.

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