Andre Fabre targeting Irish Derby glory with Waldgeist
Renowned French trainer seeking a third win in Irish classic at the Curragh
Waldgeist (red) finished runner-up to Brametot in the The Qipco Prix Du Jockey Club at Chantilly in France last month. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Much of the focus on the run in to Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby has revolved around off-course logistics but legendary French trainer Andre Fabre reckons the Curragh track itself gives his big race hope Waldgeist a good opportunity to secure classic success.
It’s 22 years since Fabre first won Ireland’s premier classic with Winged Love and a dozen since he added Hurricane Run to the Derby roll-of-honour.
Waldgeist will carry the same colours of German owner Dietrich von Boetticher’s Gestut Ammerland stud that Hurricane Run did, although like that horse he is part-owned by the Coolmore partnership.
And like Hurricane Run he will line up at the Curragh on the back of finishing runner-up in the Prix du Jockey Club over an extended 10 furlongs at Chantilly earlier this month.
Stepping up to a mile and a half at the Curragh worked perfectly for the big French hope in 2005 and Fabre is hoping for a similar result in Saturday’s classic which takes place in front of a controversial restricted 6,000 capacity due to the racecourse’s reconstruction.
“It’s a good opportunity for him. I’m sure the pace will be sensible. He stays well and has good acceleration,” Fabre reported on the back of a dozen colts being left in the classic at Tuesday’s forfeit stage.
The shock 40-1 Epsom hero Wings Of Eagles will bid to become the 19th horse to complete the Derby double at the Curragh and heads an eight-strong Aidan O’Brien trained entry.
Wings Of Eagles and Cracksman continue to dominate the top of the betting for Saturday but Waldgeist is a general 100-30 shot and can already boast a Group One defeat of the big Irish hope.
Fabre’s horse won last October’s Criterium de Saint-Cloud in which Wings Of Eagles could finish only ninth. The trainer believes the Curragh will suit his hope.
“I think the Curragh is a beautiful track, very well designed,” Fabre declared. “You cannot be unlucky there. It’s a very fair course and I’ve never seen a messy race there.”
Fabre’s Curragh classic collection also includes the Oaks in 1993 with the Pat Eddery-ridden Wemyss Bight.
Ballydoyle’s strength in depth means Ladbrokes go 4-6 about Aidan O’Brien winning the race for a 12th time. It’s 20 years since he first won the race with Desert King and it is only 10-1 about O’Brien saddling a one-two-three.
The champion trainer has had a clean-sweep of the Irish Derby placings on five occasions, the last of which was 2014 when Australia beat Kingfisher and Orchestra.
Pat Smullen will look for a third Irish Derby success after Harzand a year ago and Grey Swallow in 2004 while Jessica Harrington has kept open the option of running the King George V Cup winner Grandee.
Godolphin could yet be represented after the Jim Bolger-trained Dubai Sand was also left in the classic.
Ground conditions on the Curragh’s Derby course are currently good and good to firm in places although there is a relatively unsettled weather forecast in the days ahead.
The Derby festival’s other Group One prize is Sunday’s Pretty Polly Stakes which 14 fillies and mares left in it. They include three cross-channel possibles, John Gosden’s Journey, Roger Varian’s Nezwaah and Smart Call trained by Sir Michael Stoute.
Dermot Weld has two options, the US Grade One winner Zhukova and the Aga Khan’s Shamreen, winner of the Blandford Stakes in 2016.
The Derby is due off at 5.20pm on Saturday and its main support event will be the Group Two Gain Railway Stakes.
Bolger has supplemented his impressive course maiden winner Verbal Dexterity into the six-furlong event which also includes last week’s Norfolk Stakes winner Sioux Nation among 18 possible starters.