Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Grand National: Here comes Johnny

Johnny Murtagh, who began the Irish Flat season with a treble last Sunday, could be on the mark again when he rides at Leopardstown tomorrow.

Murtagh was in top class form at the Curragh riding for Aidan O'Brien and he rides the highly regarded Washington Irving in the Foxrock Race over a mile-and-a-quarter.

Washington Irving has already been installed third favourite for the Derby with Ladbrokes and tomorrow sees his eagerly-awaited seasonal debut.

The Aidan O'Brien trained Montjeu half-brother to Dual Oaks heroine Alexandrova, has only run once, finishing fourth on his debut at the Curragh last October when sent off the 2-1 favourite. Nevertheless a number of bookmakers have named him as their dark horse for 2008. The ground when Washington Irving ran last year was soft and conditions are expected to be heavy tomorrow.

O'Brien said: "We will see what he is made of after tomorrow but he should run a big race."

Kevin Prendergast who was on the mark at the Curragh last Sunday, relishes this game and is very rarely astray with his runners.

Moiquen should win the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas trial even though he meets three O'Brien-trained colts.

Famous Name trained by Dermot Weld will go close and he was a debut winner over six furlongs at Naas last year.

Prendergast said of Moiqen: "He missed the break the first time out and then went to Navan and won well on quick ground but I don't think this testing surface will inconvenience him on Sunday. He's in good form and we're hoping he'll run well."

As far as the Leopardstown 1,000 Guineas trial is concerned, Jim Bolger has the dual Group One winning filly Saoirse Abu and this filly should win despite the fact that Halfway To Heaven and Psalm represent O'Brien.

In addition, Dash Back is expected to run well for Prendergast and jockey Declan McDonagh.

Dash Back ran a good race first time out and a stepped up in trip. "We'll see whether to run her over middle distance or to go back sprinting," said Prendergast.

"She is running in the Guineas trial because the opposition is decent."

Murtagh who rides the odd winner for Ger Lyons, is expected to score on Rockazar in the Leopardstown evening meetings handicap.

Over at Limerick, Willie Mullins may have the winning of the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase which is a Grade Two race.

Mullins runs Fred Benefit and Candy Girl who come up against Oscar Honey from the Jessica Harrington stable and this should make an intriguing race.

The fact that leading jockey Davey Russell is riding Callherwhatulike for Robert Tyner adds some spice to the race but it should be Mullins's day and I fancy Candy Girl.

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