High Definition bids to make up for lost time in Irish Derby

Aidan O’Brien pulled favourite from Epsom Derby but now he aims to land at the Curragh

High Definition is favourite to land Saturday’s Irish Derby at the Curragh. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

High Definition is favourite to land Saturday’s Irish Derby at the Curragh. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

High Definition is favourite to give Aidan O’Brien a 15th Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh on Saturday, possibly provoking a case of “what might have been” into the bargain.

O’Brien surprised many by opting not to run the long-time winter favourite in the Epsom Derby earlier this month, putting all his eggs into the Bolshoi Ballet basket instead.

That colt fluffed his “‘blue riband” lines by struggling home seventh behind the surprise Godolphin winner Adayar.

The latter won’t line up at the Curragh but his stable companion Hurricane, third at Epsom, looks set to be one of a number of horses representing that Epsom form.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vital acceptance stage, the Curragh’s chief executive Pat Keogh said on Monday: “Our understanding is the second (Mojo Star,) third (Hurricane Lane) and fourth (Mac Swiney) at Epsom will run.

“As well as that, Martyn Meade’s horse (Lone Eagle) is going to come as well. Horses like Johnny Murtagh’s Earlswood will be there as well. It is going to be a very strong race and looks as good a race as we’ve had in a good while.”

Even at the height of summer the Cheltenham festival managed to elbow its way into focus on Monday due to confirmation from authorities there that they are exploring the possibility of extending jump racing’s biggest meeting to five days in 2023.

In such a Tuesday to Saturday a scenario two new races would have to be found to create five six-race programmes. The Gold Cup though would remain on a Friday.

Quite what competitive impact such a move might produce is debatable although it is competition for Ireland’s premier €1.25 million classic that is of immediate concern.

It has been the target for High Definition since O’Brien decided to skip Epsom with him. Paddy Power have made High Definition an evens favourite for Saturday with Hurricane Lane next best at 7-2.

The maiden Mojo Star belied 50-1 odds to finish runner up to Adayar at Epsom and qualifies to get a free supplementary entry on Tuesday.

Hurricane Lane was the Godolphin No 1 at Epsom but appeared uneasy on the track at times and was reported to have lost both front shoes during the race.

Godolphin last landed the Irish Derby with Jack Hobbs in 2015. It’s only other success was with the filly Balanchine in 1994.

Two years prior to that Jim Bolger’s St Jovite put up a record breaking display and Bolger also scored with the ill-fated Trading Leather in 2013. He is set to rely on the Irish Guineas hero Mac Swiney at the weekend.

Johnny Murtagh won the Irish Derby four times as a jockey and will try to emulate Joseph O’Brien by also landing the big race as a trainer through the Gallinule winner Earlswood.

That earned the colt a free supplementary entry and the in-form Murtagh said on Monday: “He’s allowed into the race and has come out of his last run really well. He’ll have to improve again but I think he has. Hopefully we get the showers that are forecast.”

Ground conditions at the Curragh are currently good to firm and firm in places with watering taking place. However showers are expected on Wednesday and Thursday.

Saturday’s 156th Irish Derby sees the return of up to 1,000 spectators as part of the Government’s series of pilot sporting events.

It will be the first time any spectators will have been allowed go racing in the Republic for almost 16 months due to the pandemic. Crowds of 500 were allowed in Down Royal last week.

Fifty complimentary tickets have been allocated to local frontline workers by the Curragh. 200 were open to buy for Kildare residents while 450 were put on general release. The balance of the 1,000 went to track members.

“There was a lot more demand than we could satisfy. The tickets that went online were sold out in 10 minutes. The tickets we made available to the local community were massively oversubscribed as well.

“We’re just sorry we didn’t have more tickets to give out. But we are limited to 1,000. There was very serious demand. It reflects the Derby of course but also people want to get out and get back to normal.

“If this goes well, we will have small numbers back as we go on. Obviously there will be a review afterwards and if it’s a good job, hopefully it will open up for all racecourses in some shape or form. It’s not going to happen overnight but it’s a step on the way,” Pat Keogh said.

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