Sugar Boy works impressively at the Curragh ahead of Derby bid for Patrick Prendergast

Michael Kinane to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend

Michael Kinane: will be inducted into the Curragh’s Hall of Fame this weekend.

Michael Kinane: will be inducted into the Curragh’s Hall of Fame this weekend.


It took Michael Kinane 18 attempts to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. Then after Galileo finally scored in 2001, the legendary jockey pressed home the point with another victory on High Chaparral a year later. So when Kinane says the draw is important in Ireland’s premier €1.3 million Classic, then it is. This is a man who really can claim to know every blade of grass on the Curragh.

“This place isn’t the galloping track everyone thinks,” Kinane considered yesterday. “In the Derby they go a furlong, and then meet a bend. Then they straighten, but from the six furlong pole to the straight, you’re constantly on the turn. You really have to be on the inside, or one off: if you’re two or three off, you cover plenty of ground here. So the draw can count, depending on how many line up.”

It is three and a half years since Kinane retired, happy that nothing was ever going to top that momentous 2009 campaign with Sea The Stars. He was 54 last Saturday. Yet he still looks fit enough to throw his leg across any of this weekend’s Classic hopefuls, and get Messrs O’Brien, Buick and the other young bucks of the weigh-room glancing over anxiously at him.

Cast an eye
This weekend, Kinane will be inducted into the Curragh’s exclusive Hall-of-Fame and so was happy to cast an eye over a work-out on the track yesterday morning by one of the prime local Derby contenders, Sugar Boy. Afterwards trainer Patrick Prendergast and jockey Chris Hayes fulfilled some media duties before gravitating towards the man whose words have always been chosen carefully, but carry the sort of weight he clearly manages to still keep off.

“The Curragh actually isn’t as demanding a course as Epsom,” Kinane also ventured, puncturing easy assumptions about Godolphin’s supplementary entry Libertarian being able to reverse Epsom form with Ruler Of The World on a supposedly more galloping course. “Epsom demands everything of a horse. Going just half-a-stride too quickly up that hill can scupper you.”

That Ruler Of The World emerged best at Epsom was no surprise to the 13-time former champion rider who’d been vividly impressed by the way Aidan O’Brien’s star finished out his Chester Vase win. Sixteen Epsom winners have doubled up at the Curragh. Galileo and High Chaparral were two of them. Having passed the ultimate test at Epsom with flying colours, it’s not hard to suspect he would be Kinane’s pick this weekend. But he also believes Sugar Boy to be a genuine contender.

Irish racing dynasty
That was encouraging for Prendergast, a member of an Irish racing dynasty, whose grandfather, ‘Darkie’, won the Derby four times, including with Meadow Court (1965) and Ragusa (1962.) Unlike Godolphin’s six-figure outlay to get their new purchase, Libertarian, and presumably his pacemaker Cap O’rushes, into the race, or Aidan O’Brien’s four-pronged entry in his pursuit of an eighth successive Derby victory, Sugar Boy brings an undeniably romantic element to Saturday’s big race.

Home-bred, and representing a trainer who began his career 10 years ago with just three horses, and now has less than 25, Sugar Boy also though brings first rate form claims, having beaten both Libertarian and the Epsom third Galileo Rock, another of the 11 entries left in, at Sandown last April. He also looked perfectly at home in a seven-furlong rehearsal yesterday.

“He moved beautifully and if the ground is like that (good) on Saturday we’ll be happy,” said Prendergast who trains on the Curragh. “All his form is holding up and while I wouldn’t predict anything, he deserves his place. But we’d like some rain. That wouldn’t inconvenience our horse, and it might some of the others.”

Paddy Power rate Sugar Boy just a 13/2 shot and Hayes understands why. “This is the first time I’ve a proper chance in a Classic. I’ve often convinced myself I had in the past, but obviously I’m not the only that believes it this time,” he grinned, looking at the media pack.