Quality field looks assured for lucrative Irish Derby

Officials hoping first five in Epsom Derby could be reunited to clash at the Curragh

Harzand ridden by Pat Smullen winning the  Investec Derby at Epsom. Photograph: Henry Browne/Reuters/Livepicy

Harzand ridden by Pat Smullen winning the Investec Derby at Epsom. Photograph: Henry Browne/Reuters/Livepicy

 

There are only three races left for a horse to earn a free pass into the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby under the Curragh’s ‘Win and You’re In’ initiative but a lack of competition doesn’t look like being an issue this year for Ireland’s premier classic.

Instead track officials already have hopes the first five in last Saturday’s Epsom Derby – headed by Dermot Weld’s ‘blue riband’ hero Harzand – could clash again at the Curragh later this month.

Harzand will only have to cross the road from Weld’s Rosewell House stables to take his chance in the €1.5 million feature although the trainer has indicated he will not risk the Sea The Stars colt should ground conditions turn too fast.

US Army Ranger and Idaho filled the places at Epsom and also remain in contention to try and give Aidan O’Brien a 12th success in a classic he has dominated like no other, winning seven in a row between 2006 and 2012, and last scoring with Australia at 1-8 odds in 2014.

Widespread concerns

That means the first four home in the English and French Derbies can effectively run for nothing and the winners of the scheme’s three remaining races – next week’s King Edward VII Stakes and Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot, and the following Sunday’s French Oaks – can do the same.

“Ascot is quite close to us, as is the Prix de Diane, but if for instance a horse has to be supplemented on the Tuesday beforehand, paying a supplementary fee of over €100,000 for a €1.5 million race, and then getting it back if you run, is a big help,” said Curragh spokesman Paul Hensey.

“But judging by what was said after Epsom we could have the first five running here. John Gosden indicated Wings Of Desire could run and he qualified again by finishing fourth at the weekend. And Richard Hannon said Humphrey Bogart (5th at Epsom) might go to Royal Ascot and then the Irish Derby”.

Harzand currently tops ante-post betting lists at a general 6-4 to become the 18th horse to complete the Epsom-Curragh double, just ahead of US Army Ranger at 7-4. Sunday’s surprise French Derby winner Almanzor is 10-1 with some firms.

Ireland’s most valuable race will have a 5.20 start on the final Saturday or the month.

“That weekend is the last-16 phase of the European football championships. I believe there will be three matches each day of that weekend. But it’s impossible to predict at this stage any possible clash between our race and the Ireland team playing,” added Hensey.

Done tests

“Moonlight Magic has been a bit quiet since, but there is nothing obviously wrong. We have done tests and are waiting to see if anything shows up,” Bolger reported. “It was a similar story with Turret Rocks (seventh in the Oaks), and it just wasn’t our weekend.”

Kevin Prendergast is building up to Awtaad’s tilt at next week’s St James’s Palace Stakes but he will be anxious to secure another win for Cool Thunder in today’s conditions race at Fairyhouse.

Cool Thunder ran well on testing ground to be fifth in the Irish Guineas and race sharpness can give her an edge over the well-bred Raymonda.

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