Smullen narrows championship gap to four after Leopardstown success

Contingent forecast to be classic contender for 2018 after impressive debut

Pat Smullen: will miss Leopardstown’s last fixture of the campaign on Saturday due to suspension. Photograph: Inpho

Pat Smullen: will miss Leopardstown’s last fixture of the campaign on Saturday due to suspension. Photograph: Inpho

 

Pat Smullen unearthed a classic prospect for 2018 with Contingent’s sparkling debut at Leopardstown on Sunday and in the process perhaps revived his prospects of a 10th jockeys title.  

Contingent’s success in the fillies maiden narrowed the gap between Smullen and the championship leader Colin Keane to just four (90-86.)

Last week Smullen dismissed his chance of overhauling Keane. However, with Contingent following up a double at Dundalk on Friday night, and Keane finishing runner-up on three occasions on Sunday, the title-race doesn’t look over just yet. “I always try my very best to the very last race on the very last day and nothing’s going to change. But it’s going to be very hard and you have to be realistic. The ammunition’s not there. That’s the long and short of it. But I never throw in the towel,” said the title-holder.

There are seven flat fixtures left in a season which winds up at Naas on Sunday week although Smullen pointed out he will miss Leopardstown’s last fixture of the campaign this Saturday due to suspension.

Contingent’s impressive start to her racing career contained plenty encouragement for a top class three-year-old campaign in 2018.

Smooth winner The Juddmonte-owned daughter of Frankel overcame the widest 18 of 18 draw to run out a smooth winner from another newcomer Alghabrah. Afterwards Dermot Weld didn’t hide his excitement at her potential. “She could be very good. It’s very tough to win from 18 at Leopardstown and she has a lot of potential. I was looking at her as an Oaks filly but Pat says she has loads of pace so we will review things in the Spring,” he said.

Smullen agreed and said: “She’s a proper filly. She overcame a lot there. I thought it was a very good performance first time out and there’s a lot to look forward to.”

The champion jockey had to settle for second himself in the mile-and-a-half handicap as The Last Indian came up a length short of the well-backed 6-1 winner Grand Partner.  

Earlier Lucky Mistake and Danny Sheehy landed the apprentice handicap from Perfect Soldier whose jockey put up 2lbs overweight.

“He’s funny enough in the stalls but jumped well today,” Sheehy reported. “He’s improving and travelled sweet throughout the race. I got a lovely run up the rail and he’ll get further.”

Sheikh Fahad Al Thani won the concluding charity race for a second year running on his own horse, Brutal. The Qatar Racing supremo landed it in 2016 with the subsequent Cheltenham festival winner, Labaik.  

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