Irish Derby preview: Ryan Moore can steer Highland Reel home
English jockey to propel himself up alongside legends with Triple-Crown win
Ryan Moore wins the Ribblesdale Stakes on board Curvy during Royal Ascot on June 18th. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images.
History will reverberate throughout the running of the 150th Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby so a first success for Ryan Moore in Ireland’s premier classic will be entirely appropriate should the English jockey provide Aidan O’Brien with a 12th success in the €1.25 million feature aboard Highland Reel.
Completing the Triple-Crown of Europe’s most prestigious Derby contests is the preserve of a tiny elite of riders and completing the set in Ireland, France and England has proved elusive to names even as illustrious as Kinane, Murtagh and Fallon over the years.
Moore landed last year’s Prix Du Jockey Club on The Grey Gatsby and has a pair of Epsom triumphs, including on O’Brien’s Ruler Of The World in 2013.
However, the Curragh classic has remained elusive in three tries with Tartan Bearer’s 2008 third the best Moore has done to date.
He hasn’t ridden in an Irish Derby since The Queen’s Carlton House was fourth in 2011 but Moore’s international profile has sky-rocketed since then and his first season as Coolmore Stud’s number one jockey has been almost seamless in its progression so far.
Demand for his services is such that Moore is booked for a couple of rides at Newmarket before having just over two hours to make the Curragh for four rides culminating in the Derby at 6.30.
Highland Reel heads an O’Brien quartet that also includes the Oaks winner Qualify and ironically the jockeys on all three other Ballydoyle hopes have won the race in the past.
Colm O’Donoghue, a winner on Treasure Beach in 2011, again rides Qualify who sprang a 50 to 1 shock at Epsom earlier in the month and bids to become the first filly to win the Derby since Balanchine in 1994. Only 10 fillies have won the race in its long history and just two since 1900.
Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien’s Irish Derby dominance in the last decade had led to claims of a lack of competition, with Australia’s 1-8 rout last year resulting in sustained efforts to widen the Derby’s appeal.
Whether by accident or design, the 2015 stage is set for an eagerly-anticipated clash between Coolmore and its old rival, Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin team whose Epsom Derby runner-up Jack Hobbs has been an ante-post favourite all week.
It is 20 years since the Sheikh last won with Winged Love, ridden by Olivier Peslier, another jockey to land the Derby Triple Crown, along with another Frenchman, Yves Saint-Martin, and remarkably Balanchine was the last winner trained in Britain.
“I think a galloping track like the Curragh should suit Jack Hobbs well,” said his trainer John Gosden who is also in pursuit of a first Derby. “It’s not a race I got greatly involved with in the past but it would extremely nice to win.”
It’s a sentiment Moore may share but not even Gosden comes to the 150th Derby in the form his compatriot does. Moore is on a career-high and the same may be about to be said about Highland Reel.
Finishing runner-up to New Bay in the French Derby is form that may have been under-estimated but he will thrive on fast ground which is not a guarantee with the favourite.
Ascot also proved the O’Brien team is on fire right now and although the champion trainer hasn’t dominated the run-in to this race, it could be “as you were” at the finish.