Ryan Moore aims to complete Classic haul with Irish Derby win
Monarch of Egypt returns to action for first time since April in Railway Stakes
Seamie Heffernan rides Anthony Van Dyck to victory in the Derby Stakes on the second day of the Epsom Derby Festival. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty
The 35-year-old English jockey takes over from Seamus Heffernan on the Epsom Derby hero who leads a five-strong Aidan O’Brien team into Ireland’s premier classic at the Curragh.
Moore has landed eight Curragh classics during his stellar career but the derby has proved elusive.
In seven previous rides the closest he’s come to winning was on Idaho, runner-up to Harzand in 2016.
Moore has finished third on three occasions, on Tartan Bearer in 2008, Wings of Eagles in 2017 and last year on Saxon Warrior.
That record contrasts with the derby glory he has achieved elsewhere, including two wins at Epsom and a French Derby on The Great Gatsby in 2014.
Last year Moore added the Hong Kong Derby to his CV on Ping Hai Star, and even the UAE version on Mendelssohn.
Four weeks ago at Epsom, Moore picked wrong from a strong squad of O’Brien runners, ultimately finishing fifth on Sir Dragonet as Heffernan enjoyed his finest hour on Anthony Van Dyck.
That isn’t the first time this season Moore has been on the “wrong one”, although O’Brien appears confident that won’t be the case this time.
“Ryan always rides the No 1 and that is obviously Anthony Van Dyck, that’s the way it always is in a derby,” he said .
Anthony Van Dyck has half a length in hand of Madhmoon on Epsom form while the fourth that day, Broome, is also among a Ballydoyle quintet on Saturday.
“I think it was a very good derby [at Epsom]. You hear people talk before they’re run, but they were all there from the trials, including Kevin’s horse from the Guineas.
“Only two horses [Circus Maximus and Japan] have run from the race and they’ve both won so I’d say it was a very good derby.
“Epsom is the first time all the three-year-olds come together, and it’s a very tough track. But when you get to the Curragh there’s usually no excuses,” O’Brien added.
In contrast to his derby record, Moore can already boast three wins in Saturday’s main-support event, the Group Two Gain Railway Stakes, including on last year’s winner Van Beethoven.
But that tally pales in comparison with O’Brien’s, and he can join his Ballydoyle predecessor, the legendary Vincent O’Brien, as the most successful ever Railway Stakes trainer with a 14th win.
Moore’s mount Monarch of Egypt looks the pick of two Ballydoyle runners in a race with a history of throwing up future O’Brien classic stars, such as Mastercraftsman (2008,) George Washington (2005) and Rock of Gibraltar in 2001.
The racing world looked to be at Monarch of Egypt’s feet after an impressive Naas debut at Naas in April but the son of US Triple Crown hero American Pharoah hasn’t been seen since.
“The plan was to go to Ascot with Monarch of Egypt but he just had a little setback and is ready to start off back at the Curragh, so we’re looking forward to that,” O’Brien said.
He should know where he stands with his most likely danger Siskin, whose two wins have seen the Ballydoyle runner Harpocrates twice placed behind him.
Moore is pencilled in for the Royal Ascot winner Addeybb in the Group Three International Stakes, although the five-year-old wouldn’t like ground conditions to get too quick.
Blenheim Palace looks an interesting three year old contender considering his second to Broome in last month’s Derrinstown Derby Trial.
A Navan handicap winner off 76, Churchill’s brother ran off 86 in the Derby Trial, and considering he cut out a strong early pace, did really well to finish out the race as well as he did.
Not surprisingly his handicap rating jumped 20lb on the back of that. Ridden with more restraint this time, Blenheim Palace could be hard to beat.
Seamus Heffernan does Ballydoyle duties in the Listed sprint aboard the three year old Gossamer Wings in a race that sees Gordon Lord Byron have a 99th career start.
The former triple-Group One international star was fifth in this race a year ago, got beaten by a nose in 2017, and won it in 2015.
Moore winds up the Derby Festival by teaming with Willie Mullins for Legal Spin in the concluding two-mile handicap.
Earlier in the day, however, the Mullins team will be focusing on Newcastle and the prestigious Northumberland Plate, otherwise known as the Pitmen’s Derby, where Stratum lines up.
Leigh Roche travels to take the ride in a race that has been won just once before by an Irish-trained runner – Tony Martin’s Arc Bleu in 2008.
There will be much interest will be on the well-backed ante-post favourite, Gibbs Hill, who represents the in-form Newmarket trainer Roger Varian.
Europe’s Group One bandwagon will move to Paris on Sunday, where Moore travels to team up with Lah Ti Dar in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
The filly is the apparent second-string of John Gosden’s two hopefuls with Frankie Dettori on Coronet.
The latter was just touched off by Waldgeist in this race a year ago and is in pursuit of an elusive first top-flight victory in the mile and a half event.