Lightning to strike
JOHNNY MURTAGH is acknowledged as one of the most successful jockeys ever to emerge from Ireland but Sweet Lightning can advertise again on day one of the Killarney Festival how there is more than one string to his bow.
The success of owner Andrew Tinkler’s venture into Irish racing has been one of the features of 2012 so far, with Murtagh being an integral part of the set-up at the Curragh yard he rents to trainer Tommy Carmody.
Still sidelined with a fractured cheekbone, Murtagh will nevertheless have got a huge amount of satisfaction from last weekend’s action where Ursa Major scored a Group Three success at the Curragh and Royal Diamond came within a whisker of landing the Ebor at York.
Both of those horses have possible Leger targets ahead of them but the focus this evening will be on more black-type action with the Listed Vincent O’Brien Ruby Stakes one of the features of Killarney’s four days.
Sweet Lightning was a significant catalyst in the Irish move by Tinkler, who is involved with the Stobart transport group, and the team-up with Carmody and Murtagh. The seven-year-old landed last year’s Lincoln at Doncaster under the champion jockey and showed he is far from a back-number at the Curragh last weekend when finishing third in the Cambridgeshire.
Unlucky in running, Sweet Lightning has been put back up to an official mark of 102 by the handicapper on the back of that run which puts him right in the mix for today’s race. Testing ground conditions will be no trouble to Niall McCullagh’s mount who faces eight opponents including a trio from Ballydoyle. Aidan O’Brien is chasing five-in-a-row in the Ruby Stakes and his son, Joseph, has opted for Learn, well behind Sweet Lightning at the weekend, but who this time sports first-time cheek-pieces. Rock Critic can also threaten but Sweet Lightning can prevail.
In-form Naas trainer John McConnell has had a handful of winners in the last couple of weeks and Orgilgo Bay can make it third time lucky in the opening maiden where the combined might of the O’Brien, Weld and Bolger yards can come up short.
Orgilgo Bay followed up a Curragh debut second with another runner-up spot at Tipperary behind First Cornerstone who boosted the form in no uncertain terms with a Futurity success at the weekend. Ballydoyle hope Hall Of Mirrors is another donning first time cheek-pieces but looked a very tricky ride at Leopardstown.
Encrypted Message should have no trouble with testing conditions in the concluding handicap and can defy topweight while the in-form Tyrone trainer Andrew Oliver can be on the mark again with Ocean Drift.