Oxx sounds warning ahead of Derby

Tue, Jun 23, 2009, 01:00

RACING NEWS:GROUND CONDITIONS may currently look to favour Sea The Stars running in Sunday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh but John Oxx intends leaving a final decision on the dual-Classic winner’s participation until declaration time on Friday.

The Curragh trainer outlined plans for the €1.5 million Derby yesterday and both Sea The Stars and the Aga Khan’s Mourayan will be left in Ireland’s premier Classic at this afternoon’s forfeit stage.

The intention currently is for both horses to run on Sunday and watering began at headquarters yesterday, with the Curragh management expressing their aim to maintain good to firm conditions for the weekend.

“There seems to be a positive forecast but we are right on the doorstep here and we will be looking at conditions every day,” Oxx warned.

“There are also showers forecast to be in the mix and if we get an odd thundery burst then we could be in a different situation, especially if they water. Things wouldn’t have to change too much for it to go against Sea The Stars. He certainly wouldn’t like it on the slow side of good.

“The aim is to run on Sunday but we also have an ideal alternative in the Eclipse the following Saturday. It is all ground dependent. We certainly want to run,” he added.

The going at the Curragh was officially “good to firm” yesterday and the track manager Paul Hensey reported: “We have started watering because we want to maintain what we have. The forecast is for warm temperatures with some intermittent showers.”

Unlike Sea The Stars, an easier surface would be ideal for Mourayan, who will wear blinkers for the first time on Sunday. The former Epsom hopeful hasn’t run since finishing runner-up to Fame And Glory in the Derrinstown Derby Trial.

“He is an intended runner and I would expect that Fran (Berry) will ride him,” Oxx said of the Aga Khan-owned colt.

Fame And Glory was runner-up to Sea The Stars at Epsom and looks like leading a strong Aidan O’Brien challenge on Sunday as the champion trainer pursues a seventh victory in the race, and a four-in-a-row after wins for Dylan Thomas (2006), Soldier Of Fortune (2007) and Frozen Fire last year.

Saturday’s Group One feature at the Curragh will be the Audi Pretty Polly Stakes which yesterday was confirmed as one of the four races in Ireland this year whose winner will be guaranteed a Breeders’ Cup spot at Santa Anita in November.

Saturday’s winner will be assured of a place in the Filly Mare Turf, while the Moyglare winner will get a place in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Tattersalls Irish Champion Stakes victor gets into the mile-and-a-half Turf.

The Group Three Diamond Stakes winner at Dundalk in October earns a place in the Marathon in California.

A total of 13 fillies remain in the Pretty Polly, with Katiyra confirmed a starter against a strong British challenge that includes last year’s Epsom Oaks heroine Look Here.

Look Here’s trainer, Ralph Beckett, said yesterday: “She is in the Eclipse as well and we haven’t made our minds up. But at the moment we are probably just favouring the Pretty Polly.

“It’s possible she could be better at a mile and a quarter. Dropping down in trip should hold no fears.”

Other British possibles for Saturday include the Windsor Forest Stakes runner-up Heaven Sent from Michael Stoute’s yard and John Gosden’s Dar Re Mi. As well as Katiyra, the home entry has a trio of Jim Bolger possibles including Lush Lashes who disappointed at Royal Ascot last week.

Saturday’s main support event is the Group Three Attheraces Curragh Cup over a mile and six furlongs, which has the Pretty Polly contender Profound Beauty among its 13 entries.