Derby's home rule
For the second time in four years, Saturday evening's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby will be an entirely domestic affair.
It is, in fact, only the third time in 56 years that there will be no overseas-trained challengers for Ireland's premier Flat prize. The reason can probably summed up by the words Aidan and O'Brien.
The Ballydoyle supremo has won nine Irish Derbies, including the last six with, in reverse temporal order, Treasure Beach, Cape Blanco, Fame And Glory, Frozen Fire, Soldier Of Fortune and Dylan Thomas.
O'Brien has four times had the first three, including in the past two years. Indeed, in the past five runnings only Mouryan, third in 2009, and Casual Conquest, second in '08, have intruded on the Ballydoyle dominance.
O'Brien sent out the first of his 64 Irish Derby runners so far in 1996 -- when one of his pair of long shots, His Excellence, came in third -- and won it the next year with Desert King. His sextet of entries for this year's €1.25m (£1m) purse include the Derby winner Camelot, already the 1/4 favourite and likely to shorten further.
Should the son of Montjeu bring the seven up, he will take O'Brien's Irish Classic total to 28, one more than his namesake Vincent, his legendary predecessor at his Tipperary training centre.
Camelot will be attempting to follow in the hoofprints of his erstwhile stablemates High Chaparral and Galileo, both victorious at Epsom before The Curragh. Since then, only one English Derby winner has attempted the double: North Light, second in '04.
With a single-figure field likely, Camelot could face most opposition from stablemate Imperial Monarch, a sufferer in a rough Prix du Jockey-Club last time out.
Next in the market are the progressive pair Light Heavy (trained by Jim Bolger) and Dermot Weld's Speaking Of Which, while the John Oxx-trained Born To Sea may turn out again quickly after finishing well to take fourth place in the St James's Palace Stakes a week ago.
"I felt he was a miler, but all he seems to be doing is staying," said Oxx.
Meanwhile, Curragh general manager Paul Hensey is wary about potential rain on Thursday, even if the forecast in Kildare is largely favourable.
"We were pleasantly surprised how well the track has taken all the rain we've had recently," said Hensey.
"It's yielding to soft at the moment, but I'd expect it to have dried to yielding by the end of the day.
"We'll be watching the forecast closely for the end of the week. We might have light showers on Wednesday but the key day is Thursday when there is a band of rain moving across and we'll have to see if we get it."
The Derby is being held in the evening for the first time, with the big race itself due off at 7.40.
Across the water, a decision on whether Ascot Gold Cup fourth Gulf Of Naples will take his chance in Saturday's big race at Newcastle, the Northumberland Plate, will be delayed until much later in the week.
Trainer Mark Johnston has left the four-year-old in the famous handicap at the latest forfeit stage but is in no rush to decide on future plans.
Gulf Of Naples was third in the Chester Cup off a mark of 101 in May and would be running off 107 if he took his chance this weekend.
After his great effort in defeat last week, his handicap mark is expected to shoot up again.
"He's very well but we won't know if he runs until much later in the week," said Johnston. "He stays forever and he must have cut in the ground, which is why we've left him in the Plate as it looks like being soft."
From these shores, Mount Athos remains a possible contender for David Wachman with Steps To Freedom an interesting runner for Jessica Harrington.
Chester Cup winner Ile De Re could bid for a famous double, with last year's winner Tominator still engaged, while Cesarewitch winner Never Can Tell is still also there.