The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby: Runner-by-runner guide

    • The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby: Runner-by-runner guide

      By Tom Thurgood

      It’s fair to say the €1.5million Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby has proved something of a Ballydoyle benefit in recent times, with nine winners from the past 13 renewals and 11 triumphs this century for Aidan O’Brien. The trainer has a total of 12 victories in Ireland’s premier Classic.
      O’Brien will be customarily well-represented on Saturday, with six of the 10 entries left in the Classic. In the past decade, 8.6 has proved the average field size for the Irish Derby and we can expect similar numbers once again this time.

      While a very fair track, the Irish Derby course at the Curragh is always turning before the straight and horses with low draws are advantaged. Five of the past 10 winners have drawn stall 3 or lower, with none higher than stall 8.

      ANTHONY VAN DYCK
      Trainer: Aidan O’Brien.
      The Epsom winner bids to join an elite band in completing the Derby double, last achieved by Harzand three years ago.
      The experience gained in seven starts last term has clearly proved beneficial so far in an unbeaten campaign, and that courage and nous came to the fore on the Downs. Bustled along turning into the straight and with seven in front of him two furlongs out, Anthony Van Dyck stayed on strongly despite not enjoying the clearest of passages under a good ride from Seamie Heffernan with the rail to help in the closing stages.
      He should give another good account, but his odds look skinny and he does not make significant betting appeal. In addition, how much more does he have to give in comparison to his rivals?

      BROOME
      Trainer: Aidan O’Brien.
      Touched off in Group One company on his fifth and final start of a creditable juvenile campaign, Broome has looked good this season at a mile and a quarter with a fine return in the Ballysax and a cosy success in the Derrinstown Derby Trial.
      Always behind in the Derby last time after a tardy exit from the stalls, he subsequently raced wide yet made ground nicely on the outside and looked strongest at the line.
      Epsom seemed to bear out the view of connections that he just races lazily rather than not having the required speed and, although yet to finish in front of Madhmoon and Anthony Van Dyck, he is one to take seriously.

      BUCKHURST
      Trainer: Joseph O’Brien.
      Buckhurst looked an exciting prospect when making a winning start at Leopardstown in April, a feat not many from the Joseph O’Brien yard achieve.
      Stepped up in trip and class in the Derrinstown Derby Trial, he was first off the bridle and finished behind Broome, Sovereign and Rakan but he was not beaten far, making nice ground into the straight before being eased late in the piece.

      Buckhurst travelled best and looked the likeliest winner in the Group Three Gallinule Stakes last time and was swamped by Constantinople, a colt with twice the experience and subsequently just denied in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot.

      He has his stamina to prove, though Buckhurst has a middle-distance pedigree and you just feel connections might have been working back from the Irish Derby. He has more to do, but do not be surprised if he reverses the Derrinstown form with a few of these for last year’s winning trainer and owner Lloyd Williams.

      GUARANTEED
      Trainer: Jim Bolger.
      On official ratings, Guaranteed is up against it. He took a while to get the hang of things in his juvenile season and similar remarks could apply this term, while Jim Bolger horses tend to thrive on racing and the colt arrives here after Listed success at the Curragh this month.
      It’s fair to say Riven Light looked an unlucky loser on that occasion, however, and huge improvement is required for this first attempt at a mile and a half.

      IL PARADISO
      Trainer: Aidan O’Brien.
      Beaten in all three starts last year before getting off the mark at the first time of asking this season, his form does not read particularly well despite placing third behind Circus Maximus on debut.

      Aidan O’Brien noted this colt stays particularly well – he started immediately at 1m4f this campaign – and the trainer suggested Il Paradiso could be a St Leger candidate who will go on improving.
      He makes little interest here, but keep an eye on his performance with a view to big staying prizes in the autumn.

      MADHMOON
      Trainer: Kevin Prendergast.
      Unbeaten last season, Madhmoon is yet to win this term but posted a career-best at Epsom last time and in very eye-catching fashion too.
      He stumbled four furlongs out – a disadvantage yes, but one at danger of being overplayed given how quickly he picked up the bridle after - but the way he zoomed from the three-furlong marker to the two-pole was striking.

      Madhmoon ran to the line nicely despite changing his legs and the more conventional Curragh promises to suit him better.
      If his potent turn of foot can be harnessed at the key moment, he can prove a huge threat on what will be only his sixth career start.

      NORWAY
      Trainer: Aidan O’Brien.
      Norway landed the Listed Zetland Stakes last season and looked a fair Classic contender at that time, yet things have not gone as well as might be expected this term.
      Well-beaten on his return in the Chester Vase and seven lengths behind Anthony Van Dyck at Epsom, Norway was stepped up in trip for the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot last time to finish ninth of the 13 runners.
      This is a pretty speedy turnaround and he has a few questions to answer.

      RAKAN
      Trainer: Dermot Weld.
      By a brilliant Derby winner out of an Oaks runner-up, Rakan is certainly bed for the job and earned high praise indeed from trainer Dermot Weld after breaking his maiden late last year at Leopardstown.

      Weak in the market on his return in the Derrinstown, he travelled nicely before fading into fourth and got off the mark for the season last time in the Listed King George V Cup.
      Rakan was workmanlike on that occasion, yet runner-up Barbados and third Eminent Authority did the form no harm at all in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and Weld is adamant that his “bone-idle” colt will improve for a well-run race and is now reaching something like peak fitness after a winter setback.
      He’s an interesting contender after just five career starts but will have to deliver a career-best by a good way.

      SOVEREIGN
      Trainer: Aidan O’Brien.
      Sovereign got off the mark by no less than 14 lengths at Galway last September, but that’s proved his sole win from eight starts.
      Beaten three lengths in the Derrinstown Derby Trial, he was an unconsidered 50-1 shot and made the running at Epsom. His likely role here is with more fancied stablemates in mind and he could prove the pace angle.

      WESTERN AUSTRALIA
      Trainer: Aidan O’Brien.
      Western Australia was busy and kept good company in his juvenile season, rounding off that campaign with a third in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at a big price and only beaten a length by future Classic winners Magna Grecia and Phoenix Of Spain.

      A strong stayer, he got off the mark this season over 1m5f at Navan last month before disappointing in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot last week.
      Quicker ground here will suit better and his profile allays concerns about the quick turnaround, though he clearly ranks one of the Ballydoyle outsiders.

      TOM’S VERDICT
      Ballydoyle look set to dominate with quantity and quality, yet this looks a fascinating Irish Derby that will go some way to establishing the pecking order of the top three-year-olds colts over a mile and half. The principal contenders look closely matched and the first five at Epsom finished within a length of each other.

      Madhmoon has speed and class and instinctively looks the one to side with, while no one would begrudge veteran trainer Kevin Prendergast a fairytale success in Ireland’s premier Classic. However, his price has contracted in recent days and although he got the trip at Epsom you just wonder whether 10 furlongs might prove his optimum distance.
      Broome looks more interesting at slightly bigger odds. While not a flashy sort, he’s had a good campaign and finished with a rattle at Epsom after ceding a lot of ground and looks sure to prove strong at the finish.

      The Ballydoyle contingent will be well aware of the threat of Madhmoon, and a potentially strong pace to try and probe stamina deficiencies should not inconvenience the Galileo colt. Last year’s Irish Derby-winning jockey Donnacha O’Brien looks set to retain the partnership from Epsom.
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