Murtagh pulls further clearin title battle

JOHNNY Murtagh and Pat Smullen got together before racing at Leopardstown yesterday to promote the finale of the 2009 Flat Championship.

The battle is on for the professional title with Murtagh currently holding a lead of four winners over Smullen on 85 after partnering Don Carlos to victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

The Flat season finishes on Friday November 27 at Dundalk and there will be fitting celebrations for the last day of the campaign, including music and entertainment.

Murtagh said: “I would love to be champion jockey again as it has been a long time since I won the title, the championship is top of my mind.

“I’ll be going all out to win it between now and November 27.

“I’ll miss one meeting due to the Breeders’ Cup. It will all be down to the last six meetings in Dundalk, each riding booking will be crucial so I’m putting the pressure on my agent Eddie Byrne – not me!”

The 2009 Horse Racing Ireland Ambassador has won the championship three times in his racing career, but the last time he held the trophy was as far back as 1998.

Smullen added: “I think it will go all the way to the wire, both Johnny and I are out to win it.

“I’m a few behind Johnny now and it’s not where I want to be.

“I hope to battle back and take the lead again. I say let the best man win and I hope it’ll be a great end to the season, especially for me!”

Meanwhile the Ballydoyle Breeders’ Cup picture is becoming slightly clearer after Aidan O’Brien outlined plans for some of his team.

Dual Group One winner Rip Van Winkle looks set to fly the flag for the stable in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, while Irish 2000 Guineas victor Mastercraftsman has the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile as his main objective.

“Rip Van Winkle is in the Classic and we’ve also entered Mastercraftsman in that race, but his stated preference is for the Mile Dirt race,” said O’Brien.

“However, we are allowed to change preferences closer to the race.

“Man Of Iron is in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, while Alfred Nobel and Beethoven are both set to go in the Juvenile Dirt.

“Lilly Langtry is in the fillies’ grass race (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf), while Viscount Nelson is in the colts’ grass race (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf).”

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