Saturday’s Irish Derby was not a typical renewal, taking place before the Epsom and French equivalents and featuring a larger field (14 went to post) than we have become accustomed to. Aidan O’Brien was still dominant, however, winning the race for the 14th time and saddling the first three home for the seventh time.
The field was led home by well-backed 2/1 favourite Santiago, who was turned out just eight days after winning the Queen’s Vase over two furlongs further at Royal Ascot.
He coped well with the drop back to a mile and a half, in what was admittedly a well-run race, while he also displayed a good attitude under pressure to gamely fend off stablemate Tiger Moth.
However, that proven stamina and tenacious attitude makes the St Leger the obvious target as, while he advanced his rating to 118p from 113p, it is likely that his trainer will have stronger candidates for the leading mile-and-a-half races later in the campaign.
Highest Ground a top-class prospect
Highest Ground may be swerving the Derby – connections believe the race will come too soon – but he looks set to play a big role in leading middle-distance contests later in the season based on his impressive victory at Haydock last Wednesday.
Highest Ground looked something out of the ordinary on his only start as a juvenile last season, earning the Timeform Large P – signifying he is the type to make significant improvement. He then built on that positive impression at Haydock when beating Waldkonig.
Unlike his more experienced rival, Highest Ground did not have the benefit of race fitness on his side, but he was still able to readily brush aside Waldkonig, getting well on top inside the final half-furlong and passing the post two-and-half lengths clear.
The strength he showed in the finish of that mile-and-a-quarter minor event suggests that when the time comes a step up in trip to a mile-and-a-half will be no problem, and his rating of 113p puts him in a similar bracket as other promising middle-distance three-year-olds such as Russian Emperor (119p) and English King (117p).
The Dante is reportedly up next for Highest Ground, who can use that as a launchpad to the highest level. He is a colt to be excited about.
Telecaster deserves another shot at a Group 1
Telecaster was one of the leading fancies for last year’s Derby after a one-length beating of champion juvenile Too Darn Hot in the Dante persuaded connections to supplement him for the Epsom classic.
He failed to beat a rival home in the Derby, the race perhaps coming soon enough after such a big effort in the Dante. He then failed again to meet expectations in the Eclipse at Sandown, where he didn’t travel with the zest that had marked him out as such an exciting prospect at York.
He produced a more encouraging effort on his reappearance at Haydock, beaten little more than a length in third by subsequent Prince of Wales’s Stakes winner Lord North. The negative was that he had got worked up beforehand and looked awkward in the race itself.
But he proved much more professional at Longchamp last week, making the most of a good opportunity to win the Group 3 La Coupe by four lengths – impressing with how he strode clear inside the final furlong.
He advanced his Timeform rating from 121+ to 123+ and is certainly worth another crack at the highest level, keeping in mind his lightly-raced profile and the impression he created in the Dante last season and at Longchamp last week.
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