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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Too early for title talk says table-topper McDonogh

Hazapour is tailormade for Epsom challenge says 2006 champion

Pat Downes, Declan McDonogh and Dermot Weld with Hazapour after winning the Derrinstown Derby Trial
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Twelve years on from being crowned Irish champion for the one and only time Declan McDonogh finds himself back at the summit of the jockeys standings with 23 winners already this season but the current table-topper says he will not start dreaming of another title unless he is still in front come the autumn.

The 2006 Irish champion split from John Oxx at the end of last season to go freelance and Dermot Weld was quick to call upon McDonogh's experience following the devastating news of Pat Smullen's illness in late March. 

"I can't believe it's 12 years ago. It doesn't feel like 12 years," says McDonogh, reflecting on his 2006 title. 

"I'm just happy to help out in any way and it has been a pleasure to be a part of the Rosewell House team and sharing the rides with Leigh [Roche]. Pat [Smullen] is very hands on at the moment and is a great help to me. We speak regularly about the horses, almost every day, and he has given me plenty of great advice. It's lovely to be riding such nice horses."

Hazapour: lands the Derrinstown Derby Trial for Declan McDonogh and Dermot Weld
McDonogh has been making the most of his new alliance with Weld and guided Hazapour to glory in the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown earlier this month. He has not retained the ride for Saturday's Investec Derby but has no hard feelings with Weld's decision to opt for Frankie Dettori.  

"It would obviously have been nice to ride in the Derby, but they're entitled to pick who they want and I have no qualms with their decision to book Frankie for Hazapour," McDonogh said.

"Frankie was over on Tuesday morning to ride work on Hazapour and I rode alongside him. He seems in great shape. 

He added: "I think Epsom will suit him. He's not over-big and does everything easily. When I won on him at Leopardstown he was very straightforward – he settled, travelled and quickened. Those are the sort of attributes you want around Epsom. He goes there with a good chance."

So, can McDonogh maintain the early gallop he is setting in the Irish title race and regain the crown? 

"It's too early for that talk," he replies. "My aim is just to keep riding as many winners as I can. You could not start thinking about titles until Galway is over or well into the autumn. If I was still in front then maybe I would start giving it a little more thought. 

"I'm just enjoying riding nice horses at the moment. I'm just keeping the saddle warm for Pat."

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I'M just keeping the saddle warm for Pat
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