Crossfirehurricane to make Irish Derby bid on Saturday

Unbeaten US-bred colt was an impressive winner of the Gallinule Stakes this month

Shane Crosse onboard Crossfirehurricane (3) comes home to win the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh last week. Photo: Caroline Norris/Inpho

Shane Crosse onboard Crossfirehurricane (3) comes home to win the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh last week. Photo: Caroline Norris/Inpho

 

Joseph O’Brien has given Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby a timely boost by confirming his unbeaten star Crossfirehurricane will line up in the race.

The US-bred colt was an impressive winner of the Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh earlier this month when stepped up to a mile and a quarter for the first time.

Immediately afterwards O’Brien indicated that Crossfirehurricane would skip the Irish Derby, instead remaining at the trip and have next month’s rescheduled Tattersalls Gold Cup as a target.

That race, usually run over Guineas weekend for older horses, has been moved to July under the radical revamp of the 2020 programme book due to the coronavirus emergency.

However, the trainer has had a change of heart and confirmed on Monday that Crossfirehurricane will take his chance in Ireland’s premier classic with 18-year-old jockey Shane Crosse likely to take the ride.

Timing

“It’s against three-year-olds and he’s a course winner and I suppose the timing of the race is quite suitable. He can still go for the Tattersalls Gold Cup afterwards,” O’Brien said.

Saturday’s race will see Crossfirehurricane stretched to a mile and a half, a distance that has proved problematic for other sons of his sire.

Perhaps the best known example is 2018’s star three-year-old, Roaring Lion. He was third to Masar in the Epsom Derby that year but subsequently dropped back in trip to record a Group One hat-trick over a mile and a quarter in the Eclipse, the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes.

Roaring Lion finished his stellar career winning at the top level over a mile in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Kitten’s Joy is also the sire of this season’s English Guineas winner Kameko who is set to take his chance in the Derby at Epsom on Saturday week.

As for Crossfirehurricane, O’Brien said on Monday: “We’ve always been quite hopeful that he will stay. But I’ve always had it in my head that 10 furlongs might be his trip. But there’s only one way to find out.”

The decision is a boost for the Curragh which will be the first of Europe’s major Derby prizes to be run this year.

Normally it takes place three weeks after Epsom and the French Derby at Chantilly but those races have been pushed back a month due to Covid-19.

So Horse Racing Ireland’s decision to keep the Irish Derby on its original date, albeit with its prizemoney halved to €750,000, makes for a novel scenario this year.

Crucial to the final make-up of Saturday’s race will be what horses Aidan O’Brien decides to keep in reserve for Epsom a week later and what will be kept for the home classic. The champion trainer has already said he won’t ask any of his colts to race in both.

With no overseas-based entries anticipated to be kept in the race at Tuesday’s acceptance stage, and other domestic contenders seemingly thin on the ground, the decision by O’Brien’s son to aim Crossfirehurricane at it provides a welcome competitive edge.

Successful career

O’Brien rode two of his father’s 13 Irish Derby winners, Camelot and Australia, during his brief but hugely successful career as a jockey.

Two years ago he also saddled the winner when Latrobe won under his younger brother Donnacha. The second, third, fourth and fifth that day were all trained by O’Brien Snr.

The family influence is set to continue this Saturday too with Donnacha O’Brien in his first season with a trainer’s licence planning to run Sherpa, third to Crossfirehurricane in the Gallinule last time.

Ground conditions at the Curragh are currently good, and good to firm in places, on the round course. With an unsettled weather outlook the situation regarding any watering is being monitored.

“Juice in the ground would be a worry. I’m not sure what it is going to be looking at the forecast. We’ll have to wait and see. He will probably still run but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Joseph O’Brien added.

It could represent a huge opportunity for Crosse who has ridden Crossfirehurricane in three of his four starts, including the Gallinule.

It’s only just over two years since the Co. Tipperary rider had his first winner although he ended 2018 as champion apprentice.

O’Brien has entrusted him with many good rides this season and said on Monday that Crosse will “probably, most likely” take the mount on Crossfirehurricane in the Irish Derby.

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