THREE MEETINGS LEFT IN SMULLEN v. MURTAGH BATTLE: Shamrock follows the fight for the Irish jockeys’ championship, taking sides with both Johnny Murtagh and Pat Smullen in a six-race duel on a hot card at Leopardstown this afternoon.

The Irish jockeys’ title could be decided today. With Johnny Murtagh five in front of reigning champion Pat Smullen, the pair clash in six races out of seven at Leopardstown. Then there are just two meetings left, at Dundalk (Friday) and Leopardstown again on Sunday.

Despite the triple presence of Ballydoyle in the opener today (1.00), with hot-favourite Wonderful and Co., I shall want to be on Princess Highway for Smullen.

Dermot Weld has won this race three times recently, two of them well drawn low as his ‘Princess’ is today, but the third on the wide outside. That didn’t stop her, which strengthens the view that Weld sends out horses from the top of his list for this one.

Murtagh has a tricky start– Arabela has twice refused to go into the stalls – but I shall not desert him on Born To Sea (1.30) in the two-year-old trial as the threeparts brother to Sea The Stars climbs another rung to the top of the ladder.

Their tough draws put me off backing Smullen or Murtagh in the nursery (2.00) but Smullen may have the edge riding for last year’s winning trainer.

There’s a puzzle of a different kind in the Trigo Stakes (2.30): it’s the old one of whether a good older horse can beat an improving youngster.

On this score, the betting says it’s Smullen (on the old boy, Famous Name) versus Pat Shanahan (on Zaminast) with Murtagh (on John Oxx’s Atlantic Swing) not considered at 14.5. I’ll be perverse, and have an old punt each way that the Oxx filly is overpriced.

It’s a similar Weld v Oxx clash of Smullen and Murtagh in the maiden, which I’ll duck, and I reckon Noel Meade has the final handicap sorted.

His runners, Cloudgazer and Leroy Parker, have both shaped as though today’s trip would be ideal, and Leroy Parker has become something of an early-doors gamble as I write, in to 3.8 market leader ahead of the paper favourite, Sun Disc.

NAP: Born To Sea (1.30 Leopardstown)
NEXT BEST: Leroy Parker (4.10 Leopardstown)
OUTSIDER: Atlantic Swing (2.30 Leopardstown)
DAQ TRIO: Princess Highway (1.00) with Born To Sea (1.30) and Leroy Parker (4.10), all at Leopardstown.

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