Smullen travels to Haydock for Garswood tilt at Group Three feature

Six-time Irish champion jockey looking ahead to seventh Epsom Derby appearance

Ahead of an Epsom Derby date with Fascinating Rock next Saturday, Pat Smullen is in Haydock today for six rides which include Garswood, favourite for the Group Three feature.

The six-time Irish champion jockey could also bid for classic honours this Friday if Tarfasha lines up in the Oaks.

Today's local action is at Tramore and with a glut of racing in Britain highlighted by the Timeform Jury Stakes at Haydock – where Garswood is set to start a warm favourite – Richard Fahey wasted no time recruiting his old ally.

Fascinating Rock will be Smullen’s eventh Epsom Derby ride and the jockey reported: “If the ground is soft it won’t inconvenience him . . . he has coped with bad conditions so far this year. Australia is probably a very good-actioned horse. There’s no doubt that he’d probably be better on better ground and if the ground came up soft it might . . . give the rest of us a chance.”


Smullen's boss, Dermot Weld, has just a single runner at Tramore today with Nieve carrying the famous Calumet Farm colours in the mile-and-a-half handicap. She gets a significant pull from top weight Gold Necklace who, nevertheless, should be tough to beat on better ground.

The 12-furlong opening maiden is an unlikely source of Derby clues but the 92-rated Highly Toxic finished only eight lengths off Fascinating Rock and Ebanoran in the Derrinstown Derby Trial and his official mark makes Pat Flynn's runner a stand-out.

Flynn is scheduled to run nine horses today and now that Waydownsouth steps back in trip he can score while better ground could also be the key to Golden Sky securing a valuable win in the fillies maiden.

Henry De Bromhead is an even more local trainer and Sizing Italy will have the assistance of Jane Mangan in the concluding maiden although the Killarney hurdles winner Little King Robin may be better value in the conditions.

In contrast Co Antrim trainer Stuart Crawford has a long trip south but Sultana Belle's first flat start in almost two years could make it worthwhile.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column