Sunday 11 December 2016

Aidan O'Brien plots Irish Derby revenge on Harzand with four-strong team

Published 20/06/2016 | 16:41

US Army Ranger and Idaho chase Harzand home at Epsom
US Army Ranger and Idaho chase Harzand home at Epsom

US Army Ranger will lead a four-pronged attack by Aidan O'Brien on the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh on Saturday in a rematch with his Epsom conqueror Harzand.

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The Dermot Weld-trained Harzand survived an 11th-hour scare with a foot problem to beat US Army Ranger and Ryan Moore by a length and a half in the Investec-sponsored Classic earlier this month.

Idaho was third for Ballydoyle and is also set to take his chance.

O'Brien said: "We are looking at having three or four runners.

"US Army Ranger and Idaho are our main two. They seem to be in good form since Epsom, and have come out of their races well. The ground was on the slow side at Epsom which is always a help for them to recover after the race.

"We couldn't be happier really. Shogun is in there and Port Douglas as well, but Deauville won't run. He'll go for the Eclipse or something like that.

" We are always very happy with good ground or better, and we take what we get after that. Obviously the better the ground, the better it will suit us.

"You need a very good horse to win the Irish Derby, and you need to stay very well. There is nowhere to hide, and it's usually not very tactical. The pace is usually even, and the best horse always wins at the Curragh."

Speaking at a media event at his powerhouse yard, O'Brien went on: "We were delighted for Dermot and Pat (Smullen) and His Highness The Aga Khan. It was great for their whole operation, and they are all very professional, proper people.

"We are lucky to have a facility like the Curragh as it's probably one of the best racecourses in the world. It's a great, round gallop, and the sod on the Curragh is very unique. It's old and has been minded and brought on for a long time. Paul (Hensey, Curragh manager) and all his team have always done a wonderful job.

"We are lucky to have it in Ireland."

Hensey is expecting a mixed bag on the weather front for the next few days but is anticipating an improvement in conditions ahead of the weekend.

He said: "We had 14.6 millimetres of rain yesterday, it was persistent rain all day. The ground is currently yielding on the straight course and good to yielding on the round course.

"The forecast is a bit mixed up until Thursday, but it should pick up after that and temperatures are due to rise."

Coral make Harzand the 6-5 favourite (from 11-8) following support on Monday. US Army Ranger was eased to 11-8 (from 5-4) second-favourite to gain his revenge.

Spokesman David Stevens said: "With going conditions at the Curragh likely to be in the colt's favour, Harzand has once again taken over at the head of our market from big rival US Army Ranger, with the Epsom third Idaho completing the trio at the head of the betting for what promises to be an exciting Classic rematch."

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