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It’s Irish Derby day. In scenes of a most unexpected variety, I will be in attendance. Given only 1,000 members of the public are being let in, I’m counting myself most fortunate. This will be the first time I’ve set foot on a racecourse since the Cheltenham Festival of 2020. I’ve checked my racing clothes, and the moths haven’t got to them in the interim. It’s likely to be an unusual race day experience. I will take notes, and report back my findings next week.
The big race looks a competitive renewal. There probably aren’t any stars on show but I’m expecting it to be a good spectacle. The supporting card looks up to scratch. The Railway Stakes, in particular, should prove highly informative.
My first tip comes in the fillies handicap at 2.30 pm. This is a tricky case to make as it’s fundamentally based on jockey bookings. Ger Lyons runs two horses. Amber Kite is a progressive three-year-old who drops in grade having run respectably in a group 3 race last time out. It’s possible that connections feel she has been harshly treated, and have decided to use a claimer to ease her burden. The other explanation is that connections feel they have a well handicapped filly on their hands in the form of recent recruit Marbling.
The latter explanation is the one I favour. This well bred sort was sold for £42.000 last November. That investment could be recouped with interest were she to prevail on Saturday. She has only had six career starts. Admittedly, it’s not easy to improve one out of the Andre Fabre yard. I can’t help recalling Buffer Zone though. He was a well-backed winner of a valuable pot at this meeting a couple of years ago. That race was his first start for the same owner/trainer/jockey combination as Marbling. Let’s hope that I’ve read the signs correctly, and Colin Keane can get us off to a flyer.
The Railway Stakes at 3.05 pm looks a belting renewal. Castle Star and Dr Zempf head the betting. Both were highly impressive when winning last time out. Go Bears Go and Cadamosto ran big races in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. They should both come on plenty for that experience too.
It’s probably a race to watch but I can’t resist a tickle on The Entertainer at a juicy price. This horse was mightily impressive when winning on debut in Navan. Seamie Heffernan was at pains to educate the horse. He was happy to wait for a gap to appear. When that gap finally arrived, the horse put the race to bed in a couple of strides. The second and third that day have won since. The Entertainer then lined up in the Marble Hill Stakes on Irish Guineas weekend. He didn’t run well granted but the ground was borderline unraceable. I’d be inclined to give this speedily bred colt another chance to confirm that debut promise. Particularly, when we’re getting such inflated odds on the back of that run.
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I’m inclined to play for a bit of a result in the Irish Derby at 3.45 pm. High Definition is a bit mentally slow. It’s also possible that he lacks the tactical speed of a true top notcher. I can leave him alone at the price. The next three horses in the betting were placed in the Derby. I don’t rate that form all that highly.
My pin has fallen on Lone Eagle. This progressive sort took his form to a new level in Goodwood last time out. It’s possible that he just handled conditions best that day. The ground was soft, and it was very windy. I’m going to take a kinder interpretation. He looks a very strong stayer, and comprehensively turned Sandown Classic Trial form around with the second Yibir. It’s unlikely that Lone Eagle will get an easy lead on Saturday. That shouldn’t worry Frankie Dettori. Once there is a strong enough pace to bring Lone Eagle’s stamina into play, I’d say his jockey will be happy to sit second or third. This horse looks a little overpriced to my eye.
The mile handicap looks highly competitive. We get plenty of in-form horses, and the three-year-olds taking on their elders. For all those complications, I’m quite sweet on Eagle’s Flight. This horse put up a massive effort when winning last time out in Leopardstown. It’s only a mild exaggeration to say he challenged 10 wide on the home bend.
Despite giving up all that ground, he came with a withering run to get up close home. The handicapper hasn’t missed him. An 8lb rise asks a big question. The form of that Leopardstown race couldn’t be working out better mind you. Trainer Michael Halford mentioned in the post race interview that this horse has been tricky to train. It may be that he has just found the key to him. In fairness to the horse, while he has run 11 times, he made his debut less than a year ago. I will take him to continue on an upward trajectory.
- Irish Derby 2021 start time, prize money and runners
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