Irish Derby: Jack Hobbs primed to break Coolmore stranglehold
Sheikh Mohammed looking for first win in €1.25m race for 20 years
Jack Hobbs’ jockey William Buick is aiming to break his duck in the Irish Derby. Photograph: Getty Images
It is 20 years since Sheikh Mohammed tasted Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby success but in Jack Hobbs the ruler of Dubai has an odds-on favourite to secure a landmark 150th renewal of Ireland’s premier classic in the Curragh backyard of his greatest rivals this Saturday.
Jack Hobbs, who races for the Sheikh’s Godolphin bloodstock-empire, dominates betting for the €1.25 million highlight and will have a maximum of eight rivals after a final forfeit stage which saw the recent Godolphin acquisition, Pleascach, left in the classic mix too.
Last month’s Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine has also been left in Sunday’s Group One Sea The Stars Pretty Polly Stakes but even if she takes that Group One option the potential for an intriguing “battle of the sexes” remains likely with the 50/1 Epsom Oaks winner Qualify one of a quartet of Aidan O’Brien Derby hopefuls.
O’Brien is pursuing a 12th Irish Derby victory, with that dominance built on the might of John Magnier’s Coolmore behemoth, which has won all but one of the last 10 Irish Derbies, the exception being Jim Bolger’s Trading Leather in 2013.
In contrast, Godolphin, traditionally Coolmore’s biggest global rivals, have been unable to land a blow in Ireland’s richest race. The then fledgling organisation won the race with the last filly to win the Irish Derby – Balanchine in 1994 – but Sheikh Mohammed hasn’t won since the following year’s victory for Winged Love. He also scored with Old Vic in 1989.
Stable companionWilliam Buick
Like Buick, Gosden is aiming to break his duck in the Irish Derby and the Newmarket trainer said: “He’s a tall rangy horse and to that extent I think a galloping track like the Curragh should suit him well. He took Epsom well and seems in good form.”
Gosden’s Newmarket colleague William Haggas has left open the option of giving Storm The Stars, third at Epsom, another crack at Jack Hobbs but it is 21 years since the Irish Derby has been won by a horse trained across-channel.
Dermot Weld plans to take his chance with another son of Sea The Stars, the unbeaten Radanpour, but the home defence is likely to again mainly rest on Ballydoyle, although Qualify is owned by Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez rather than the Coolmore syndicate.
Both Balanchine and Salsabil (1990) won the Oaks on their previous starts but the scale of the challenge in a filly tackling colts is reflected in how prior to Salsabil, the last of the fairer sex to win the Irish Derby was Gallarina in 1900. In all, 10 fillies have won the Irish Derby in its 150 history.
Qualify was immediately made a 12/1 shot for Saturday’s big race, which is due off at 6.30, with O’Brien’s French Derby runner-up Highland Reel installed an 11/2 second favourite in some betting lists. Giovanni Canaletto, fourth at Epsom, and Kilimanjaro, sixth at Epsom, complete the O’Brien entry.
Another Coolmore-owned star, last week’s Ribblesdalde winner, Curvy, was a notable absentee from the field at the forfeit stage after speculation she might be another filly to take her chance against the colts.
The Godolphin-Coolmore rivalry could also extend to Saturday’s main support event, the Group Two GAIN Railway Stakes with last week’s Norfolk Stakes winner Waterloo Bridge one of four O’Brien entries among eight left in.