Friday 18 January 2019

Expect Keane edge if Roscommon survives

Jockey Davy Russell at a charity hurling match; last week; he is being investigated by the Turf Club after an incident at Tramore last week
Jockey Davy Russell at a charity hurling match; last week; he is being investigated by the Turf Club after an incident at Tramore last week

Weather permitting, the race to be Ireland's champion jockey will head to Roscommon this afternoon, but the Connacht venue will have to escape the 30-50mm of rain forecast for the region for their eight-race Flat card to survive.

If the meeting does get to go ahead, nobody will make the journey west with more confidence than the pace setting Colin Keane, who now holds a very strong advantage over reigning champion Pat Smullen.

Keane was busy over the weekend, riding winners at both the Curragh and Tramore on Saturday and booting home a double at a damp HQ yesterday, both for his boss Ger Lyons.

Lyons doesn't supply Keane with any of his intended rides at Roscommon tonight, but there was no doubting how much the next few months mean to the trainer. "It's great, I'm feeling the pressure more than he is, I'd say!" Lyons commented. "He's very laidback. But it would be some achievement if he could keep his head in front. We're delighted for him and he's a very hard worker. I'll be doing all I can to help him out."

Keane can get among the winners this evening aboard Dara Tango for Tony Martin in the concluding Sean Cleary Memorial Handicap.

The horse bounced back from two and a half years off the track to finish second at Leopardstown back in June before winning on the final day of the Galway Festival and the 10-year-old can again reward his patient connections with victory this evening.

Keane may not manage to extend his advantage this evening, though, as his main pursuers in the title race also look to have good chances of getting on the mark. With the revival of Dermot Weld's horses in recent weeks, Newcross, a half-brother to Group One winner Fascinating Rock, can defy his absence since last year's Galway Festival to win the Abbey Hotel Maiden over 10 furlongs.

Donnacha O'Brien may be a long way adrift of the top two but with the support of his father Aidan, for whom he won the Group Two Debutante Stakes, and his brother Joseph, he can still be a big player in this race.

This evening, O'Brien can score on top weight Apparition in the three-year-old-only Peggy Guerin Handicap for Joseph as the horse bids to follow up his Amateur Derby success at the Curragh last month.

Meanwhile, the current early leader in the jump jockeys championship Davy Russell is likely to get a ban following an incident at Tramore last Friday. The Gold Cup-winning jockey will be investigated by the Turf Club over an alleged incident involving Russell's treatment of his mount Kings Dolly at Tramore on Friday.

Footage appears to show the jockey striking the horse at a 'show' obstacle before the Flynn Hotel Group Mares Handicap Hurdle at the evening fixture.

The race-day stewards were not aware of the matter but the Turf Club can take retrospective action where appropriate.

"We only became aware of it late Saturday evening and it is being fully investigated," said Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan.

"As part of the investigation, we will examine whatever footage is available and decide then whether or not any rules have been broken."

The Turf Club seemingly has no precedent for this incident but in July Shane Foley got a seven-day ban after hitting his mount twice behind the saddle prior to entering the stalls. This was dropped to five on appeal.

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