Brendan Duke: Madhmoon can get Irish Derby revenge at a cracking Curragh Festival

Top-class Irish racing under bright blue skies. What a time to be alive!

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My trip went well. Ascot is a beautiful spot. The racing was thrilling, and a couple of nice-priced winners meant expenses were covered. Glad to get back to the oul’ sod though. My journey home was eventful. A train strike left the bus as my only option. Got the bus at 6.30 pm. Flight wasn’t until 9.10 pm. What could possibly go wrong?

Legoland that’s what. If reports are to be believed, the kids are all stuck into video games these days. Well I can assure you that there are still plenty of budding engineers out there. It took a full 45 minutes to get out of the place. Arrived in Terminal 5 at 8.15 pm. That would have been fine, were it not for the fact my plane was outside terminal 2. Turns out Heathrow is vast. Mildly worried. Was getting an Aer Lingus flight though. As a keen history student, I was fairly sure the flight would be delayed. Probably because the incoming flight was delayed.

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Catching up isn’t their forte. Got to Heathrow Express platform just as they announced ‘please stand back, doors are closing’. Six chilling words. The 14 minute wait for the next train seemed like an eternity. Upon arrival the departures board told me my flight had closed. B**tard. The helpful lady at the desk gave me two options. Flight to Dublin the next morning or the 10.30 pm to Cork. At times like these I like to abdicate all personal responsibility. Flipped a coin. Tails, and Cork, it was.

Naturally, this flight was delayed. Got another bus from the Airport to Cork City. This provided some welcome joy. The journey was gratis. The driver, despite coming to the end of a 10-hour shift, was a credit to the place. His payment machine was broken, and he’d ferried passengers around for free all day. He only had two for his last trip, Myself and a Venezuelan girl.

She was struggling with his accent. Truth be told, so was I.

It’s like they’re singing down there. He still had us eating out of the palm of his hand. The only break in his patter came when Miss Venezuela informed us she was staying in Dublin for the following week. “God’s own country” said I. He had no words. A Corkonian harrumph was all we got. He then literally went the extra mile, and took me from the terminus to my connecting bus stop. A genuinely good egg. The next bus took me to Dublin. Finished up in a taxi, and arrived back to the ranch at 5am.

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Irish Derby weekend will be run under bright blue skies. The ground was soft earlier in the week. With just a drop of rain forecast for Saturday, the big race should be run on perfect ground. As mentioned, I think Madhmoon was an unlucky loser at Epsom. That stumble cost him so much more than just lost ground. He can exact revenge on Saturday at 17.20. Epsom winner Anthony Van Dyck is a tough nut but the betting gap between them looks too wide.

The other Group 1 at the Curragh takes place on Friday and it looks a decent renewal of the Pretty Polly Stakes at 17.25. Having said that the Oaks form suffered a blow at Royal Ascot, and Wild Illusion was disappointing on comeback. It might be worth chancing Happen at 33/1. She let me down a bit at Ascot. Her Athasi win, from an unpromising position, promised much for the step up to a mile.

She didn’t deliver the expected improvement. Her run style, and the distaff side of her pedigree suggest she should improve for the extra couple of furlongs. Whether she will find enough is another matter. We’re getting a big price to find out though. Seven runners is annoying from an each-way perspective.

I will chance a small win bet.

Surrounding looks the best bet on Friday’s card (16.50). A very smart filly, she should enjoy a class edge here. Her handicap mark of 100 doesn’t look excessive. She’s a keen-going sort. This race should be run at a good clip. That, coupled with the cover provided by 12 opponents, looks just the ticket.


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The eye is naturally drawn to the three-year-olds in all aged handicaps and Nickajack Cave is bound to be popular in the 18.25 on Friday. I will take a chance on the six-year-old mare, Hamley, who never stopped improving last season. She bolted up in a course and distance handicap off 5lbs lower last July. That rates strong form. Her comeback last month had tune up written all over it. I’m a little worried about the lack of obvious pace in the race. We will likely get a double-figure price though. That would be enough to conquer my fears.

Due to the scourge of 24-hour decs, I’m guessing a bit about Saturday’s International Stakes (15.30.) Addeybb is supposed to be running and if ever a race could do with some overseas runners, this is it. Having won the strongest Listed race in the game, this looks like a penalty kick. William Haggas might face a dilemma though. I think the ground will be good to firm by then and it’s not certain he will run on the faster ground I will take a chance on Georgeville. This is a horse going places. He eschewed two Royal Ascot engagements, presumably to wait for this. I’d be relatively confident he will prove a stakes performer.

We should get a sporting price.

The Railway Stakes on Saturday 16.40 promises to be a belter. Siskin, and Monarch Of Egypt are hugely promising. So is Romero. He looked a weapon on debut at Doncaster. The problem is it wasn’t much of a race. Kevin Ryan has some nice juveniles this season. This horse is obviously showing plenty at home. The home-grown firepower means we should get rewarding odds. I will trust my eyes, and take them.

*Prices correct at time of publication

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What do you think?