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Leopardstown briefing: Smullen happy to be champion but he feels for injured Berry.

Byline: BRIAN FLEMING

PAT SMULLEN will be crowned Ireland's champion Flat jockey for the third time at Leopardstown this afternoon.

The County Offaly-born rider is on the 67-winner mark with a full book of eight rides at the Dublin track today, including Queen Astrid in the November Handicap.

"Obviously I'm thrilled to win the championship, as it's something you set out to do at the start of the year," Smullen said yesterday. "To fulfil that target is a real bonus."

The championship picture changed dramatically at The Curragh in August when Fran Berry, who was five clear of nearest pursuer Smullen, suffered a crashing fall that ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Smullen said: "The gloss was taken off the whole title race at The Curragh that day, but I'm sure Fran is going to be very difficult to beat next year. In this game you can be on top one day and knocked to the ground the next, so it puts everything in perspective. It's great to be champion jockey, but just to get back riding again is all that matters for Fran."

Smullen goes into the final day of the season nine clear of the sidelined Berry (58), with Kieren Fallon (57) and Declan McDonogh (52) next.

Chris Hayes will be champion apprentice, having won 38 races this term, six clear of Rory Cleary.

Aidan O'Brien, with 62 wins for the campaign along with John Oxx, is two behind Dermot Weld. But with prize-money of E3,551,859, O'Brien will achieve his eighth trainers' championship, and his seventh in succession.

"It has been a good year and a real team effort, with Kieren, Coolmore and all the staff playing vital roles in the success," summed up the master of Ballydoyle, who singled out the now-retired Oratorio as the horse who gave him the most satisfaction.

"He was an unbelievably tough horse and very versatile in terms of trip, having won Group 1 races over seven furlongs last season and the Eclipse and Irish Champion over ten furlongs this year.

"That day at Leopardstown in September probably stands out most for me."

1.35 Knockaire Stakes (Listed, 7f) Notable runners The penultimate Listed race of the Irish Flat season looks open, with soft-ground specialist Tolpuddle, off the track since winning here on a similar surface last May, sure to be fancied to follow up. Eklim is another with a previous victory on an easy surface (at The Curragh over a mile) to his credit. Common World, unplaced in France last time, is another with snippets of worthwhile winning form, while British raider Turnkeyand John Oxx's Sweet Treatare others with prospects.

Quotes Teresa Costello, owner of Common World "It's obviously very tough with his Group 3 penalty, as there are several in the race who can beat him at the ratings. There was no pace the last day in France, which didn't help his cause, but he loves racing and this will be his 19th outing this year."

John Oxx, trainer of Sweet Treat and Caprarola "Sweet Treat ran well at Naas last time and seemed to handle easier ground, so we're hoping she will run well here, while Caprarola finished in middivision in that same Naas race and disappointed us, so we're giving her another chance."

Kevin Prendergast, trainer of Adaala "She has won on heavy ground and is in good shape, so we're hoping she'll run well here."

Michael Halford, trainer of Sanfrancullinan "It's a very competitive race, so she looks up against it, though she does go on the ground and should handle it better than most."

2.05 Eyrefield Stakes (Listed, 1m1f) Notable runners This is the final juvenile race of the season and should be a hectic betting heat, with Jim Bolger's Rhythm'N Roots bidding for his third career success.

Aidan O'Brien is double-handed, with Navan winner Mountain, the selected mount of Kieren Fallon, while Royal Intrigue is another highly regarded colt who has a length and a half to find on the Bolger runner. Kalmez and Danehill Music are other previous winners, while sole British challenger Wovoka also comes here with winning form.

Quotes Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Mountain and Aleksandr Pushkin "Mountain was very green first time at Navan, and even when he won there on his next start he still looked green. He's a nice horse and we think a bit of him, so hopefully those two runs will stand him in good stead here.

Aleksandr Pushkin has been disappointing and looks to have it all to do in this company."

Pat Smullen, rider of Royal Intrigue "I've been looking forward to riding him again, as he's a nice horse. While the ground is very heavy, it's a case of who'll handle it the best will win, but I'm hopeful we'll be there or thereabouts."

John Oxx, trainer of Kalmez "He won well at Navan on his second start and the form has worked out well since. The ground is different now, though,and there must be a doubt whether he'll handle it."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 6, 2005
Words:844
Previous Article:Hourigan bullish about Beef Or Salmon; 2.35 Leopardstown November Handicap (2m) Notable runners.
Next Article:France: Jays Tidal Fury the only raider on valuable card.


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