McCullagh set to saddle Akeed Mofeed in Irish Derby

 

RACING:NIALL McCULLAGH is likely to team up with Akeed Mofeed in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh tomorrow evening.

McCullagh is Akeed Mofeed’s regular work rider at John Oxx’s Currabeg stables, and is pencilled in for the ride as Johnny Murtagh will be aboard Born To Sea should the half-brother to Sea The Stars take his chance.

“That’s the plan at the moment unless things change in the next day,” said McCullagh, who won the Doncaster Cup on the Oxx-trained Saddler’s Rock last season.

“I ride Akeed Mofeed regularly at Mr Oxx’s yard. I’m well acquainted with the horse so I know him well. Fingers crossed, that’s my understanding, unless circumstances change.”

Oxx reports Akeed Mofeed is over the injury problems that have delayed his seasonal reappearance, but admits it has been a battle to get him ready for the race. Akeed Mofeed showed his well-being yesterday morning when doing some light exercise on the nine-furlong all-weather round gallop.

“Twelve weeks ago next Tuesday he took his first lame step,” said Oxx. “He was off for 17 days, and the Tuesday before the Derrinstown Derby Trial he pulled a muscle and was off for three weeks. It’s not been a great preparation and he’s had a tough regime to get him ready. He’s taken the work well and did a hard bit of work on Tuesday. We’ve always liked him. I hope he’s fit enough to run a big race. I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t prove to be a good one. We’ve never run a horse first time out in the Derby.”

Born To Sea looks like taking his chance after being in action only last week at Royal Ascot, when fourth in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

“He’s going from strength to strength,” said Oxx. “All the rain is a bit of a worry. I’d like to see him on a bit of fast ground, but he’s got his brother’s (Sea The Stars) constitution. He takes everything in and doesn’t worry.

“He’s thriving from race to race and putting on weight. I’ll talk to the owners and make a final decision, but I expect he will run. He’ll definitely like a mile and a quarter, but going straight from a mile to a mile and a half in one swoop is a bit risky. In the circumstances, we have to take a chance.”

In the likely event of Born To Sea being in the line-up, Murtagh will be in the saddle.

“Johnny has confirmed to me he does ride Born To Sea,” said the jockey’s agent Eddie Byrne.

Oxx’s third entry, Call To Battle, has been ruled out with a foot abscess. “It’s quite nasty and rules him out at the weekend,” said Oxx.

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