Busy weekend for Irish Grade One hopefuls on global stage

O’Brien bids for Derby-Oaks double in US while Condon seeks fairytale win for Miss Amulet

Ken Condon  with work rider Sean Mooney and Miss Amulet who  features in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket  on Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ken Condon with work rider Sean Mooney and Miss Amulet who features in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Irish racing’s global reach is underlined this weekend with Group One runners from this country competing in England, France and the US.

The Dáil’s Agriculture Committee heard during its examination of integrity and doping on Thursday that Ireland has proportionally more overseas runners than any other jurisdiction.

A total of 1,733 Irish-trained horses raced abroad in 2019, representing six per cent of the total number of runners in Ireland that year.

The majority of those are in Britain and Curragh trainer Ken Condon flies the flag at Newmarket on Saturday with his bargain buy Miss Amulet in the Darley July Cup.

Later on Saturday night Aidan O’Brien will hope for a different kind of Derby-Oaks double when Bolshoi Ballet and Santa Barbara are favourites to land Grade One glory in Belmont.

Both O’Brien and Condon, as well as Joseph O’Brien, will also be represented in Sunday’s Prix Jean Prat, the first major event of Deauville’s summer season.

Both Battleground (Colin Keane) and Wembley (Wayne Lordan) take their chance for Ballydoyle while Thunder Moon (Maxime Guyon) runs for O’Brien Jnr.

Condon has booked veteran local star Olivier Peslier for his hope Laws Of Indices who ran fifth last time in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup.

Newmarket’s ground conditions look to have finally come in favour of Miss Amulet.

Last year’s Lowther heroine was forced to miss the French 1,000 Guineas due to heavy ground, struggled in similar conditions in the Irish equivalent and was also taken out of the Commonwealth Cup due to the going.

Miss Amulet, who went through the ring as a foal for just €1,000, is the sole three year filly among the 19-strong field which means jockey Billy Lee has to do close to his lightest weight.

“It will be a very competitive field and she’ll be a big price but some of her form from last year is working out very well. It remains to be seen has she trained on but physically she has done very well,” Condon reported.

Aidan O’Brien has skipped a shot at a record sixth July Cup and instead focuses his attention on Saturday at New York.

Evens favourite

Bolshoi Ballet failed to fire when favourite for the biggest Derby of all at Epsom last month but returns to action in the $1 million Belmont Derby due off at 10.12 Irish-time on Saturday night.

Ryan Moore makes the journey to team up with the colt who is a 7-5 favourite on the local morning line betting.

Moore teams up as well with Santa Barbara who takes her chance as an even hotter evens favourite in the $700,000 Belmont Oaks.

Both races are at a mile and a quarter on turf that may not be the quick surface the Ballydoyle team were banking on. New York saw very wet weather due to a tropical storm into Friday morning.

Santa Barbara will try to follow in the hoof-prints of Athena who won the race for O’Brien in 2018. Deauville won the Derby for Ballydoyle in 2016.

No Irish horse has won the ‘Jean Prat’ since Vincent O’Brien’s Night Alert in 1980.

However O’Brien has been filling in gaps on his French big-race CV with a vengeance this season and will hope Battleground can step up on his third to Poetic Flare in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

He had Thunder Moon (seventh) and Wembley (ninth) behind him on that occasion and could relish a step back to seven furlongs. Oisin Orr rides one of the English raiders, Mehmento.

The domestic feature on a packed weekend programme is Sunday’s Group Three Brownstown Stakes at Fairyhouse.

Paddy Twomey’s ex-French Pearls Galore is top-rated and has an inside draw. The Ballycorus third may not want ground conditions to dry out too much but otherwise looks a major player.

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