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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

George will have to fend off Mullins team to secure hat-trick

Willie Mullins: runs three in the Irish St Leger Trial
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3.30 Curragh
Comer Group International Irish St Leger Trial Stakes (Group 3) | 3yo+ | 1m6f | ATR

An unprecedented occasion in Irish racing and certainly an Irish Group race with a difference, Willie Mullins outnumbers Aidan O'Brien three to one in terms of runners.

However O'Brien supplies the favourite, Order Of St George, who will be bidding to win the event for the third consecutive year, while Mullins will be represented by Wicklow Brave – who beat Order Of St George into second in the Irish St Leger last year – along with recent Galway festival winner Renneti and Aussie Reigns.

Dual Group 1 winner Order Of St George, who won the Irish St Leger in 2015, last ran at Royal Ascot in June when he failed by a short head to win back-to-back Gold Cups, losing out to Big Orange.

O'Brien said: "We gave Order Of St George a break after Ascot. He's in good form and while we think he'll improve for the run, we think he's ready to run a good race."

Officially rated 5lb lower than Order Of St George, Wicklow Brave is the highest-rated of the Mullins trio.

Chris Hayes rides the eight-year-old for the first time and Mullins said: "Wicklow Brave had a tough race when running fourth in the Goodwood Cup, so we'll have to see whether that left a mark.

"We're bringing him back in trip but he's a Group 1 winner over the course and distance and likes the Curragh."

Renneti was a 13-length winner of a conditions event at Galway earlier this month and Mullins believes the eight-year-old is improving.

He said: "He has a bit to find on ratings but won very well at Galway and we think he's progressing. Any ease in the ground would suit."

Aussie Reigns will be having his first run on the Flat for Mullins and his first Flat start since contesting the 2015 Cesarewitch for Gary Moore.

"He's been running over hurdles but we decided to let him take his chance back on the Flat because of the small field," said Mullins.

Rekindling, a 12-1 shot for the William Hill St Leger, is the only three-year-old in the line-up and will be seeking a third win at Group level having landed the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes early in the season and the Group 2 Curragh Cup over this course and distance last month, when he beat Wicklow Brave by half a length.

His trainer Joseph O'Brien said: "He's in good form but he has a 5lb Group 2 penalty. Depending on how things go we'll make a plan. He'll have plenty of options."

The Jim Bolger-trained Twilight Payment, both of whose wins have been at the Curragh, finished second in this event a year ago and was again runner-up to Order Of St George in the Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown in May.

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He's in good form. We think he will improve for the run, but he's ready to run a good race
E.W. Terms
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