Irish Derby weekend. Traditionally two of the signature dates in my diary. This year, not so much. In fact it’s Monday the 29th of June that has been circled for a week or so. For that’s the day I will be getting a haircut. Well, I hope to anyway. The barber could probably refuse on the grounds that my barnet could blunt his scissors. I’m sure he won’t though. There’s probably an ancient code handed down from the days of Samson that says, have scissors, will snip. Erm, anyway, on with the tips…
The Irish Derby is a victim of these unprecedented times. The English are keeping their powder dry for next week’s Derby. Ballydoyle are probably sending their best middle-distance horses to Epsom too. We do get a big field of unexposed sorts to pore over. Not easy but whatever wins will be a decent price. These are surreal times. As such it makes perfect sense that Rachel Blackmore has a ride in the big race. There could be rain about this weekend. It’s a bit of a guess-up, though. Thundery showers are fickle out. I’m reasonably confident of good ground.
Crossfirehurricane rates the selection. This horse has worked his way through the grades during an unbeaten four-race career. He has the head carriage of a horse who relishes the battle. Not that he had to show much fight when bolting up in the Gallinule Stakes last time. He sauntered through that race before winning with the minimum of fuss.
It should be noted that the favourite Mythical was a disappointment. It’s easy to argue that the Hurricane didn’t beat much. It’s also possible to argue that he hasn’t much to beat here. His stamina isn’t assured on pedigree but on run style it will come as a surprise to me if he doesn’t relish the test. This progressive sort is likely to improve. That might be enough.
I will also have a saver on Tiger Moth. This horse may not show that much at home. He entered numerous notebooks when placed in a backend Curragh maiden last term. He returned in Leopardstown earlier this month. It was surprising to see Seamie Heffernan ride Dawn Patrol that day.
Tiger Moth did go off second favourite in fairness. He was sneakily impressive on the day, and should have learned plenty. I’m not sure the runner up is totally genuine but it was probably a strong race for the grade. This is obviously a big step up. It probably won’t take as big a leap as normal mind. Not to belabour the point, but it’s unlikely this is a strong renewal. The booking of Emmet McNamara and stamina concerns mean we’re getting a double figure price. I’ll take a chance at those odds.
The Sprint Handicap has attracted a big field. Latin Five is worth chancing at what should be a big price. This horse contested another handicap for three-year-olds on Irish Guineas weekend. That race was over seven furlongs. I’m pretty sure Latin Five was the last horse off the bridle that day.
Unfortunately when making his move, he ran into a wall of horses. The jockey quickly accepted things, and the horse was beaten 10 lengths in the end. The drop to six furlongs on Saturday looks a positive. I’m also encouraged that Latin Five went off 50/1 the last day. Those odds were hard to credit given his form. Perhaps he was expected to need the outing. There looks to be loads of pace in this race. That should suit this strong traveller.
It’s possible Flight Risk could be the forgotten horse in the Celebration Stakes. This grand old campaigner is now 9. He looked as good as ever last term though. Indeed he was unfortunate in this very race. He has a penalty to shoulder on Saturday but still comes out the best horse on adjusted ratings.
It’s possible Ancient Spirit will get an easy time on the lead. I’m more than hopeful that Raise You, a recent recruit to the Joseph O’Brien team, will ensure competition for the lead. If Flight Risk gets a decent pace to aim at, he should go very close here.
The Vintage Crop Stakes 19.45 closes the card. My best guess is that Wayne Lordan has chosen Twilight Payment over Master Of Reality. It makes some sense. Twilight has the benefit of a run and the Master is almost certainly being trained to peak for the Melbourne Cup. This could be overdone in the market though.
The Master won first time up last term. He’s also officially the joint best horse in this race on the back of huge efforts in the Gold Cup and in Australia last year. That’s before we start to question the merits of Sovereign’s Irish Derby win. I’ll be surprised if the horse isn’t fit enough to do himself justice. That might well prove good enough.
Brendan Duke’s tips for racing at the Curragh on Saturday