Friday 15 December 2017

Gosden set to crack Irish Derby puzzle

Trainer John Gosden reckons a galloping track like the Curragh will suit Cracksman better than Epsom and price of 3/1 seems fair. Picture credit: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile
Trainer John Gosden reckons a galloping track like the Curragh will suit Cracksman better than Epsom and price of 3/1 seems fair. Picture credit: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile

Wayne Bailey

When a rank outsider wins a Group One, what are the chances he can come back and do it again at that level in his next race?

Well in the case of Wings Of Desire, the bookmakers are saying he has a 36pc of doing so, or 7/4 in plain old betting parlance.

Having won the Epsom Derby at 40/1, Aidan O'Brien's colt is back for more in the Irish version (5.20 Curragh) but, if you look back at the record of horses which attempted something similar in the last few years, it wouldn't exactly inspire you to lump on at that price.

I'd consider anything priced 20/1 or above to be a 'suprise' winner of a Group One.

Since 2008, 19 horses have attempted to follow up and 18 have failed. Ghanaati was the exception in 2009, having won the 1,000 Guineas at 20/1 and followed up by winning the Coronation Stakes at 2/1.

Marcel is a recent example of how things can go wrong. Chapple-Hyam's colt won the Racing Post Trophy in October at 33/1 but couldn't follow up in the 2,000 Guineas at 8/1 and actually came last.

It's a very similar story in National Hunt racing with 20 surprise Grade One winners attempting to do it again during that period, but only Go Native was successful - also in 2009. Noel Meade's star won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton priced 5/2, having previously landed the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle at 25/1. But otherwise, all those that have attempted have drawn a blank.

It's hard to say how today's race will pan out tactically but it will be fascinating now that we are wise to how Wings Of Desire won the Epsom Classic.

He certainly has room to improve and you couldn't really call his Derby win a fluke but at the prices and considering the stats, I still feel he's one to avoid.

I backed Permian at Epsom as I felt that Cracksman needed another run or two before he came good. Having placed a very respectable third in that race, I'm happy to put my money on Cracksman today who should have more to come, having now raced three times.

Trainer John Gosden reckons a galloping track like the Curragh will suit him better than Epsom and price of 3/1 seems fair.

French raider Waldgeist is not dismissed lightly and his form including a second in the Prix du Jockey Club puts him right up there as a leading contender.


As regards the venue, readers will know that the Curragh is being redeveloped and capacity has been limited to 6,000 spectators. To put that in context, over 18,000 watched the Irish Derby last year which was actually down on the year before.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for tradition and I love how racing is full of them, but sometimes the sport shoots itself in the foot by being so rigid.

It's not ideal to move a big sporting event to another venue but other sports do it occasionally so fans can be accommodated.

To allow only a very small crowd in to view one of the biggest races of the year is breaking a tradition in itself, and simply puts people off. Of course, you have to please the purists, too, but racing needs to appeal to the general Joe Soap and the sport needs to attract new faces.

The Curragh is a unique venue and certain races might be tricky to host elsewhere, but Leopardstown is also a fine course and people will go to watch good horses in action, regardless of the venue.

Non-ticket holders won't be accommodated today so the fact that the course will be literally be turning people away seems a shame, especially since the Derby is a cracking renewal this time around.

When Ascot was being redeveloped, they had the Royal meeting, which is steeped in tradition, at York.

In fairness to HRI, chief exercutive Brian Kavanagh did point out that some of the sprints and the big handicaps would be difficult to host at a place like Leopardstown and that's true.

But Guineas day at the Curragh turned out to be a bit of a disaster (certainly not helped by the weather) and I just hope that today's small crowd has a better experience.

At Newmarket, Home Of The Brave is tipped around 11/4 in the Group Three Criterion Stakes (3.15) under jockey James Doyle.

Having raced well in Group Two company, a trip to the Breeders' Cup didn't work out but he was back to his best when taking a Listed race at Leicester in April where he beat Diamond Jubilee second Tasleet.


The Northumberland Plate (3.30 Newcastle) looks wide open and I reckon Winterlude can run better than yesterday's odds of 33/1 would suggest.

Trained by Jennie Candlish, the Street Cry gelding has been last in his past two runs which doesn't inspire much confidence but he has excuses for both races and was reported to have bled last time at Lingfield in April.

Earlier this year, he'd been winning and placing in some decent handicaps and a break of a couple of months should help.


2.25 Newcastle: Don't Touch

3.15 Newmarket: Home Of The Brave

3.30 Newcastle: Winterlude (e/w)

4.40 Curragh: Murillo

5.20 Curragh: Cracksman

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