Saturday 24 June 2017

Blanco to get Murtagh seal of approval

Johnny Murtagh: decision time
Johnny Murtagh: decision time

Damien McElroy

French Derby also-ran Cape Blanco has replaced English Derby fourth Jan Vermeer as ante-post favourite with all the major firms to continue Ballydoyle's domination of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh on Sunday.

Betting trends had suggested Cape Blanco, conqueror of Epsom victor Workforce in York's Dante Stakes before finishing unplaced at Chantilly, would be chosen by Johnny Murtagh this weekend instead of Jan Vermeer, and that scenario was confirmed last evening by Aidan O'Brien.

Presuming they come through routine veterinary checks this morning, the champion trainer plans to declare all five of his initial acceptors for the €1,250,000 Group One contest, which carries prize money for 10 finishers, but attracted a mere 11 possibles at Tuesday's noon deadline.

"It's looking like Johnny Murtagh will be riding Cape Blanco, Seamus Heffernan will be on Jan Vermeer and Colm O'Donoghue rides Midas Touch again. Joseph (his son) and Sean Levey have yet to be sorted out for At First Sight and Bright Horizon," O'Brien explained.

Supplemented for €125,00 on Tuesday morning, the Mark Johnston-trained Monterosso has likewise been proving quite popular with punters and is as low as 5/2 with Ladbrokes, who shortened the Dubawi colt from 3/1 yesterday.

That firm, which pushed their original favourite Jan Vermeer out a point to 3/1, and Paddy Power were both quoting Cape Blanco as the 9/4 'jolly' last evening, while reporting interest too in Ballydoyle's Epsom fifth Midas Touch and Michael Bell's Coordinated Cut.

Meanwhile, both of Tipperary-based Charlie Swan's Northumberland Plate hopefuls Rajik and Zaralabad survived the cut-off point for tomorrow's £175,000 extended two-miles affair, popularly known as the Pitmen's Derby.

The former multiple champion jumps jockey has engaged Chris Catlin for Rajik, a 14/1 chance with Ladbrokes, and Irish-born Graham Gibbons will be aboard Zaralabad, which is also on the 8-6 mark in this Heritage Handicap.

The race is guaranteed a maximum field of 20 and one of the top weights is Luca Cumani's Drunken Sailor, whose successes since being bought out of Paul Flynn's Co Longford yard last autumn included a valuable handicap in Dubai.

Later this year Irish racing gets additional kudos from the Breeders' Cup with the announcement that this country will host four of the 14 challenge races globally, which carry automatic inclusion for the winners at the world championships in Kentucky.

The quartet of Breeders' Cup events are worth a combined $5.5m at Churchill Downs near Louisville on the first weekend in November and the Irish events involved are the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Curragh, August 29), Tattersalls Champion Stakes (Leopardstown, September 4), Vincent O'Brien National Stakes (Curragh, September 11) and Diamond Stakes (Dundalk, October 1).

While the latter affair on the all-weather Polytrack surface isn't as high-profile as those staged both at headquarters and in Leopardstown, Dundalk has the distinction of providing the key trial for the Breeders' Cup Marathon, as Muhannak two years ago and Man Of Iron last November progressed from victory at the border venue to hit the jackpot in the United States.

Irish Independent

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