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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Smullen back in the championship hunt with Dundalk four-timer

Pat Smullen: four winners at Dundalk on Friday night
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Pat Smullen blew the Irish Flat jockey's championship wide open with a stunning four-timer at Dundalk on Friday evening but title rival Colin Keane struck back to deny Smullen a fifth success with a winner of his own in the last.

The pair were briefly level on 80 winners each with less than a month to go after Smullen bagged four races in a row, including the feature Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Star Appeal Stakes with Riyazan.

His bumper evening kicked off with Smugglers Creek in the claiming maiden, before Militry Decoration and Hunaina scored either side of Riyazan's success.

"That gives me hope," said Smullen. "Both myself and Colin would never be resting on our laurels, and we'll be trying until the last day. It’s a good battle and hats off to Colin as well but tonight was important to get back into the hunt.

"There are one or two days I'm going to miss with horses travelling, like Sunday I'm in Belmont, so it's important to have nights like tonight. I think it will go to the last day, and we'll be working exceptionally hard between now and then."

Trainer Mick Halford provided three of Smullen's winners and said of Riyazan: "The horses are in good form thankfully. We knew she'd love the surface having won on it last year and she likes making the running.

"She picked up well and was quite impressive. I'd imagine she'll come back here for the Listed Cooley Stakes in a fortnight."

However, not to be outdone, Keane struck back in the final race of the evening, scoring with Thunder Crash in a thrilling finish to deny Smullen and Bold Knight in a photo to ensure he was still in front at the close of play, with 81 wins to Smullen's 80.

Shane Lyons, assistant to brother Ger, trainer of Thunder Crash, said of Keane: "It's a great battle but it's like Colin has been around a long time - we're all nervous but he's not showing it at all.

"It's like a game of tennis between the two of them. It's great for racing and great for the crowd. On a night like tonight, it adds a bit of spice to an October evening with the two boys, and they're two nice people as well.

"It's a good battle but just not good for the heart. It's a case of moving onto the next day, but it was a great night tonight for Pat."

Both jockeys will head to Limerick on Saturday for five rides each. 

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I think it will go to the last day, and we'll be working exceptionally hard between now and then
E.W. Terms
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