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Great White hope


Trainer John Oxx. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile.

Trainer John Oxx. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile.

Trainer John Oxx. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile.

On the previous two occasions that John Oxx won the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, neither was a surprise – Alamshar was sent off at 4/1 and Sinndar was just 11/10.

If the Currabeg trainer was to make it a hat-trick in Ireland's premier flat race, it would be a much bigger shock as Little White Cloud is backable at 33/1 in places, but Paddy Power only goes as big as 20/1.

Ever the realist, Oxx is fully aware that his colt has to improve just to be in contention at the business end, but the fact that the colt performed admirably as his string were just finding their form for the season, gives some encouragement that he can up his game.

Oxx said: "He's an outsider, but he's a nice horse. He ran well in two trials, the first behind Battle Of Marengo, which was just four weeks after a bit of a virus that he had and that was plenty soon enough to be running him after that, so I thought he ran well.

"And then we came here two weeks later and ran in the Gallinule and again that was probably quick enough. But both those races are a mile and a quarter and he is a mile-and-a-half horse and I would say he will stay beyond that."

Beaten just three lengths behind Battle Of Marengo and two and a quarter by Leading Light is strong enough form and having been freshened up from his last run, it could be fair to say he is overpriced for what is a very competitive renewal of the Irish Derby.

"As I said, he is an outsider," Oxx continued. "He is rated 107 and will have to improve 10 pounds to be competitive. I think he will improve a certain amount and I would love to think he will improve 10 pounds, but whether he can do that I don't know. But we are five weeks on from his last run and that should give him a chance to develop and improve."

There is no trainer in Ireland more familiar with the Aga Khan stock than Oxx and while Little White Cloud is owned by Neil Jones, he is by Aga Khan stallion Dalakhani and certainly won't lack fight in a battle.

"He is bred to improve from two to three and he has been given a chance to improve, so with time and two furlongs extra I am just hoping he can make a bit of a jump. Fast ground is ideal for him. Even with a little ease in it he wouldn't be as effective."

Oxx has saddled just six winners so far this term, but still boasts a 14pc strike rate as he has had just 42 runners this campaign. He explained that a virus had curtailed their opening half of the season.

"We had a bad start to the year. We had a virus, a bad cold and dirty nose episode that sort of knocked us for six and we haven't had a good start. It slowed down our momentum a little bit with the two-year-olds as well, but we do have a two-year-old runner on Sunday so we'll be starting them gradually."

Elsewhere this weekend, Oxx will have a couple of other runners in the prominent races. "Call Of Battle will run in the Curragh Cup," he said.

He was due to run last year in the Irish Derby but went lame a week before the race and hasn't run since and I might run Harisaya in the Pretty Polly Stakes. She ran flat in the Guineas."