O’Briens confident Ruler of the World can best Derby field
‘We have been very happy with him . He impressed us at Epsom and we think the Curragh will suit him even better’
Joseph O’Brien is confident Ruler Of The World can maintain his unbeaten record and hand father Aidan a remarkable 11th Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Saturday evening.
The master of Ballydoyle has saddled the likes of Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002) and last year’s hero Camelot to win Ireland’s premier Classic, with that trio all succeeding on the back of Epsom Derby glory.
Ruler Of The World, ridden by Ryan Moore at Epsom, bids to follow in their hoofprints at the Curragh, with the trainer’s son getting back on board for the first time since he won his maiden at the track in April.
O’Brien jnr, who claimed his first Irish Derby aboard Camelot a year ago, said: “He’s an exciting horse. He’s won three times from three runs and he won very nicely the last day at Epsom so we’re looking forward to it.
“He was ready to run early as a two-year-old and he was in the Chesham (at Royal Ascot) until very late on, he was going to run but then he got a little cough. They couldn’t shift the cough for the rest of the year but he’s a very exciting horse.
“You’d be hoping he’ll improve for the experience of Epsom, the Curragh is a fair track and he’s won there already,” the jockey told At The Races.
O’Brien senior, who has won the last seven Irish Derbies, added: “We have been very happy with him (since Epsom). He impressed us at Epsom and we think the Curragh will suit him even better.”
Likely pacesetter Festive Cheer, the mount of Séamie Heffernan, also runs for the Ballydoyle team.
Renewing rivalries with Ruler Of The World is Epsom runner-up Libertarian. A shock winner of the Dante Stakes at York, the three-year-old proved that was no fluke with a fantastic effort at Epsom and he emerged with extra credit given he did not appear to handle the undulating track.
He has since been snapped up by Godolphin and is set to make his final start for North Yorkshire trainer Elaine Burke this weekend.
The trainer’s husband, Karl, believes the stable star is open to more improvement than most from Epsom.
Burke said: “He’s going there in great form. I’ve been very happy with his work since Epsom and I’m sure he has improved. Physically he looks a more mature horse than he was going into Epsom and I think mentally he has sharpened up as well.
“Considering he did not handle the track that well at Epsom, he did extremely well to finish as close as he did. Certainly you would think the Curragh will suit him better. The track should play to his strengths.
“Conditions should be fine for him. He wouldn’t want extremes either way, but other than that he’s fine. All these staying three-year-olds tend to progress through the summer, but being a May foal, you would like to think he has scope to improve more than the other horses that ran at Epsom.
“There is a lot of stamina on the dam’s side and he’ll see out the trip well. New Approach is turning into a superb stallion.”
On the possibility of his wife becoming first woman in history to train an Irish Derby winner, Burke said: “It would be great to do it for Elaine. He nearly did it at Epsom and hopefully he goes one better on Saturday.”
Despite the change of ownership, William Buick keeps the ride on Saturday evening and he too is confident of a bold show.
Buick said: “I’m really looking forward to it. He’s a lovely horse and he did very well in the Derby and the track should suit him better at the Curragh. Although he’s taking on the Derby winner, who will also improve for it being on a more galloping track, I’m very hopeful. We’ll have to see.”
Another horse who will switch yards after this weekend’s Classic is the Patrick Prendergast-trained Sugar Boy, who was snapped up by owner Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum earlier this week.
The Authorized colt beat Libertarian and Epsom third Galileo Rock on his latest start at Sandown, and Prendergast is hoping his extra freshness will stand him in good stead, although some rain at Curragh would have been welcomed.
Prendergast said: “He’s in good shape and we’ve had no problems. The rain dance I’ve been doing hasn’t worked, but there’s nothing we can do about that. If I had everything my own way we’d have had a drop of rain. I’d have been more confident about his chances then.
“It’s my first runner in the Derby and, to be honest, I haven’t even got round to thinking about the fact it will be his last run for me. We’re looking forward to the race, he’s going there well and fresh and he’s only going up the road, which is an advantage.
“I’m hoping Epsom might have emptied a couple of them out. We’ll see.”
Chris Hayes has partnered Sugar Boy on his last five stars and hopes to break his Classic duck.
Hayes said: “He’s probably the freshest horse going into the race as the others have been to Epsom and elsewhere. He’s been a great horse for me and I’ve only been beaten once on him and that was behind Battle Of Marengo in the Ballysax.
“I was fairly bullish when I came in then that if he met Battle Of Marengo again it would be a different result. It’s the first time I’ve had a proper chance in a Classic.”
Galileo Rock’s trainer David Wachman acknowledges his charge will have to keep improving to again trouble those who finished ahead of him at Epsom.
Wachman said: “He’s in good form and the ground looks OK so far. Hopefully the rain stays away. It’s a competitive race. Hopefully he’s still progressing as if you don’t progress month by month, you get left behind. We’d like a strong pace, but he handled an easy pace all right in Epsom.
“We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Jim Bolger’s only previous Irish Derby success was with St Jovite back in 1992, but he could find the target again with Trading Leather.
Second in the Dante and third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the son of Teofilo appeared ready for a step up to a mile and a half when impressing in the Silver Stakes last time out.
Bolger said: “The step up in trip should suit him. He seems in very good form and is looking very well. He’s been eating well since his last run and put the weight back on. He wants good ground or a little faster.”
John Oxx has won the Irish Derby with Sinndar (2000) and Alamshar (2003) and is this year represented by outsider Little White Cloud, who has been placed twice in Pattern company this year.
Oxx said: “The Gallinule was probably quick enough back (after the Derrinstown). He ran well but was beaten again. Both those were over a mile and a quarter and he’s a mile-and-a-half horse and will probably stay beyond that. He’s rated 107 and has to improve 10lb to be competitive. I think he’ll improve a certain amount, but whether he makes that jump I don’t know.
“It’s been five weeks since his last run so he’s had a chance to improve and he’s is bred to improve from two to three also. Hopefully with the time and the extra distance he’ll make the jump, but the gap is obviously there. He wants fast ground. He doesn’t handle soft and wouldn’t even want the slow side of good.”
A nine-runner field is completed by Godolphin pacemaker Cap O’Rushes and Pat Shanahan’s 100-1 outsider Ralston Road.