O'Donoghue can't wait for Kentucky

 

RACING/KENTUCKY DERBY:CAMELOT WILL be the focus of Aidan O’Brien’s 2,000 Guineas attention this Saturday but the champion trainer is entrusting jockey Colm O’Donoghue with the responsibility of an attempt on history in the Kentucky Derby later that night.

No European-trained horse has ever won America’s most famous race but O’Brien is sending Daddy Long Legs to Churchill Downs in an ambitious attempt at changing that statistic.

The Ballydoyle team have twice before tried to claim the “Run For The Roses”. Johannesburg and Castle Gandolfo failed to cut much ice 10 years ago but Master Of Hounds ran a creditable fifth last season and Daddy Long Legs looks to bring a better profile to America’s greatest Classic than him.

Daddy Long Legs won the UAE Derby at Meydan a month ago under O’Donoghue and the Co Cork native is eagerly anticipating riding in one of the world’s great races on Saturday night.

Winner of last year’s Irish Derby on Treasure Beach, O’Donoghue lost out on the Epsom Derby by just a head on the same horse, and has previously ridden the French Derby. Daddy Long Legs will complete his set of major Derby appearances.

“That’s what happens when you work for Coolmore. You get these amazing opportunities and I’m very excited at the idea of riding in Kentucky,” O’Donoghue said yesterday. “My horse is relatively inexperienced but is going there on the back of a good run and I wouldn’t swap him.”

American bookmakers have generally written Daddy Long Legs off as a 40 to 1 outsider on the basis of his failure to make an impact in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on the Churchill Downs dirt when ridden by Ryan Moore.

Both Hansen and Union Rags, first and second in that race, as well as the Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister dominate the betting for Saturday but O’Donoghue is hopeful the alien dirt conditions won’t prove too much of a problem for the Irish hope this time.

“Last year the dirt was quite wet and he missed the break so he didn’t run very well. But if the weather is good the surface will be sound and I think he’ll handle it much better,” he said.

“There’s an awful lot of speed in the race, an awful lot of front-runners. So I think the first two furlongs will be very important. If we get a good draw, and we’re able to get a good position, that will help us,” O’Donoghue added. “His overall form is good. He won the Royal Lodge last year and horses have come out of that and won.”

The Irish jockey has ridden at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup in the past and last year tasted top-flight American Grade One success with Treasure Beach in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington and on Why in the Queen Elizabeth Cup at Keeneland.

Daddy Long Logs is a son of the American stallion Scat Daddy, himself a son of Johannesburg, who picked up a career-ending injury when unplaced in the Derby.

The closest a European-trained horse has ever got to winning at Churchill was in 1986 when Clive Brittain’s Bold Arrangement was just pipped on the line by Ferdinand. Dermot Weld remains the only European trainer to win a leg of the American Triple Crown with Go And Go’s Belmont Stakes victory in 1990.

O’Donoghue’s old pal Treasure Beach could only finish midfield in yesterday’s QEII Cup at Sha Tin in Hong Kong behind the Japanese winner Rulership.

Jockey Jamie Spencer was at a loss to explain the lacklustre performance of Treasure Beach, who had previously finished fourth in the Sheema Classic at Meydan. “He was very disappointing and just didn’t fire,” he said.

The ex-Ballydoyle inmate Viscount Nelson was another to disappoint for South African trainer Mike de Kock. “He ran a good race but that’s as good as we think he is,” said jockey Kevin Shea.