Deegan chasing Olympic Glory as Sruthan heads for Newbury
Paul Deegan's increasingly influential Curragh stable will vie for a first cross-channel success when the progressive Sruthan tilts at windmills in Saturday's JLT Lockinge Stakes.
In seven short years, the Dunlavin, Co Wicklow-born handler has established himself as an emerging force on the domestic Flat scene. Last term he claimed a first top-10 finish in the trainers' championship and 14 winners this year have taken his tally to an impressive 124.
Deegan is the only handler to emulate the elite operations of Dermot Weld, Aidan O'Brien and Jim Bolger by bypassing the €100,000 prize money mark for 2014. However, the father-of-two, who refers to his hard-working wife Kate as "the real boss" at their Clifton Lodge base, concedes that Sruthan's stab at Group One glory at Newbury is essentially an exploratory foray given the presence of the Richard Hannon-trained hotpot, Olympic Glory.
"It is exciting, but it looks a penalty kick for Mr Hannon's horse," he says of his 20/1 shot. "We'd be delighted to run into the money. Sruthan has done very little wrong – seven runs, a win in a maiden, a Listed race and two Group Threes – so he is worth a shot at this level."
The Arakan gelding typifies the water-into-wine feats that have defined his handler's ascent. Deegan acquired him for just €1,000 as a yearling, echoing the astute prowess that he has shown previously with Stand To Attention (cost €2,000 before winning a €74,000 prize on its second outing) and Midnight Soprano (unsold at €1,000 before eight wins yielded in excess of €202,000 in prize money and an eventual sale price last November of €200,000).
Despite not running as a juvenile, Sruthan – which took its earnings to €126,000 with an authoritative Gladness Stakes triumph in a first-time hood for Chris Hayes on its Curragh return, has the potential to prove his most astute piece of business yet.
Deegan will celebrate his 35th birthday on Saturday, so there is a chance that it could be a day to saviour, with the fellow Robert Ng-owned Aussie Valentine set to bid for a hat-trick in the 10-furlong London Gold Cup prior to the £200,000 mile feature at the Berkshire venue.
"The main thing is that they both run their races," Deegan says temperately. "If Sruthan does that, we'll see where we are with him and have a better idea of what he can do. Aussie Valentine is a lovely, big rangy horse that will be even better next year. He is improving, and the step up in trip will suit on Saturday so he will go there with a chance."
On May 24, Prince Of All could tackle the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas for his main patron Jaber Abdullah. Soft ground might prompt Deegan to wait for Ascot's Jersey Stakes with the four-year-old, but to be even talking in such terms is indicative of the direction that this affable pro is heading.
"We are always looking for the real machine, a proper horse that can compete in Group Ones," he explains. "That is the dream, but we've been lucky to find a flag-bearer every time we needed one. The idea is simply to train more winners and, hopefully, we will get there."
Meanwhile, an intriguing overseas contender has emerged for the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh on May 25 in the shape of German raider Neatico. A Group One winner at Munich last season, beating Godolphin's smart performer Hunter's Light into third, the seven-year-old entire is being considered for the mile-and-a-quarter showpiece.
Trained by Peter Schiergen, of Danedream fame, Neatico was not disgraced when beaten only four lengths in the Hong Kong Cup in December.
Neatico has been backed from 25/1 into 12s with Racebets, but the odds-on favourite is Aidan O'Brien's Magician, already a winner at the track this season. "We're coming back for the Tattersalls Gold Cup. He should come on a good bit from his Mooresbridge Stakes run and we're very happy with him," said O'Brien.
Jim Bolger's Trading Leather is another Classic winner on course for the race as he returns to the venue where he landed the Irish Derby last summer.
There is at least one Irish-based runner in each of the seven races on a typically busy day for the raiders at Perth this afternoon.
Gordon Elliott has booked Davy Condon for his three runners, while the in-form Stuart Crawford has engaged AP McCoy for his trio, including the recent Hexham runner-up Man With Van in the novices' chase.