Air Chief pulls rank on rivals

JOHNNY Murtagh, who has decided not to appeal against his six-day ban imposed by the Newmarket Stewards last Friday, took the honours at Dundalk yesterday, completing a treble on Air Chief Marshall, Seven Summits and Fictional Account.

Air Chief Marshall, placed in Group 1 company last season looked head and shoulders above his three rivals for the seven-furlong Irish Stallion Farms Race and duly justified 1/4 favouritism, coasting into the lead with two furlongs to race before strolling clear to slam One Set by no less than fifteen lengths.

“He was entitled to do that, even on this year’s form,” said Murtagh. “He finished upsides Croisultan at Naas the last day and Liam McAteer’s horse went on to win the listed race at Fairyhouse on Saturday.”

The reigning champion added: “He handled the surface really well and seven furlongs might well be his best trip.”

Seven Summits provided Murtagh with the middle leg of his treble and Aidan O’Brien’s second winner on the day when staying on strongly to beat Tillahow and Minsky Mine in the Hibernia Steel Maiden over an extended ten furlongs.

The Danehill Dancer colt, stepping up in trip, won in the style of a colt that would appreciate even further, as Ballydoyle representative Pat Keating suggested: “He seems to be improving and did his job well. I’d say he’ll have no problem going a bit further.”

Vincent Ward, who trains outside Kilcock, provided Murtagh with his final winner, Fictional Account, a former Moyglare filly, which came through inside the final furlong to foil front-running Solo Performer, a solid effort on her seasonal debut.

Just like last summer, when she triumphed at Leopardstown, trainer Ward is away o holidays and was represented by Frank Broad, assistant manager of Moyglare, with whom he shares the yard.

Broad quipped, “We should send him away more often, maybe every time she runs,” before adding “We got away with trying her over that longer trip.

“The ground is a bit deeper than she likes and, in the finish, she had to have a hard enough race to win so she’ll probably have a short break and she might go back to Leopardstown, for a mile and six there.”

Although slightly overshadowed by Murtagh’s treble haul, David Marnane and Colm O’Donoghue continued in good form, completing a double with Empirico and My St Clair.

Less affected than most of his rivals by a false start to the opener, caused by a stalls malfunction, Empirico seized his opportunity, pouncing inside the final furlong to beat Patrickswell.

Marnane stated: “When he’s good, he’s very good. But he’s had more than his share of problems. He doesn’t like fast ground and that’s why we came here. We might give him a bit of a break and wait until he can get some juice in the ground.”

After My St.Clair defied top-weight in the Allen’s Pharmacy Handicap, Marnane said: “That’s her third run for us and she has improved with every one. She’s not very big, so we were worried about the ten stone. A lot depends on the handicapper, but she’ll probably go for another one of these handicaps.”

Another top-weight to oblige was the Colm Murphy-trained Aladdins Cave which, confidently ridden by Pat Smullen, came through strongly to justify 4/5 favouritism in the Connolly Kelly Chartered Accountants Handicap.

The strapping six-year-old was following-up a cosy success at Leopardstown last Thursday. And, as trainer Murphy emphasised, “It was a tall order, coming here so quickly. But he was 6lb. well-in so we had to.

“We’ll keep him ticking over and see what comes up. Galway could be on the agenda before a short break. And, as I said in Leopardstown, I’m really looking forward to sending him back over hurdles.”

The combination pf Tracey Collins and Pat Shanahan, successful with Anadolu at listed level in Tipperary on Sunday, struck again when The Mighty Atom won the six-furlong maiden at the expense of Gala Spirit.

After veteran Shanahan’s hard driving had yielded an important dividend, by a half-length, the winning trainer declared: “My jockey is riding like a twenty-year-old, like a man possessed. I’m delighted with him and for him.

“This is a very well-bred filly and it was very important to win with her so I’m delighted. If she comes out of the race well, she might run again at the Curragh on Saturday.”


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