Gurkha heads Derby market after smooth Guineas win
The Gurkha shot to the top of the Epsom Derby picture in spectacular fashion when streaking away to take the French 2,000 Guineas, Poule d'Essai des Poulains, for Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore.
Just 28 days since winning a Navan maiden on his second start, the son of Galileo was a dominant winner of the Group 1 Classic over a mile at Deauville and is now as low as 3/1 favourite with Ladbrokes, and a general 6/1 chance.
The Gurkha (76/10) made his move with two furlongs to go and had the race put to bed by the furlong pole as the three-year-old bounded clear for a five-and-a-half length win.
Co-owner Michael Tabor said that no decision had yet been made on the June 4 Derby but admitted connections expected a strong run after being supplemented following his maiden victory.
"I haven't discussed [the Derby] but it's a nice thought," he said. "We will discuss it now, that's for sure. We actually were pretty confident but it's one thing being confident and another thing winning the way he did, which was pretty awesome."
O'Brien pinpointed several high-profile targets for the exciting colt. "We thought he was good and he's always had a lot of speed. What he does next is a decision for the lads," the champion trainer said.
"We always had in our heads to come here and then go to the French Derby, Epsom Derby or the St James's Palace Stakes; it's a decision the lads will have to make but he does have a lot of speed.
"We always thought he'd get a mile and a quarter and you always think those horses have a chance of getting a mile and a half."
O'Brien and Moore were earlier out of luck with English 1,000 Guineas third Alice Springs who failed to land a blow in the French equivalent, Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, as La Cressonniere maintained her unbeaten streak for Jean-Claude Rouget and Cristian Demuro.
Seamie Heffernan helped O'Brien land a double on home soil, however, as Bondi Beach won the feature at Navan yesterday, the Group 3 Coolmore Vintage Crop Stakes.
"You'd be very happy with that," Joseph O'Brien said. "I don't know whether he'll go for the Saval Beg before the Gold Cup or straight to Ascot." Earlier, Washington DC was a comfortable winner of the Coolmore Stud Power Stakes, securing his third success at Listed level.
Elsewhere, Willie Mullins was just touched off in Nashville, Tennessee as Shaneshill and Nichols Canyon finished second and third in their bid to land the American Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle.
Shaneshill went down by a neck in Saturday evening's $200,000 (€177,000) race but there was still a distinctly Irish flavour as Rawnaq, formerly trained in Ireland and partnered by Emma Lavelle's former stable jockey Jack Doyle, triumphed by a neck. A seven-time winner on these shores and third in the 2015 Cheltenham Festival Brown Advisory Plate, Cyril Murphy's charge is now eligible for a $500,000 (€442,000) bonus next March through the Brown Advisory Cheltenham-Iroquois Challenge.
Murphy believes Rawnaq would be good enough for a shot at the bonus if he chooses to run at Cheltenham: "There is now 10 months of thinking to do. We will see - we have a lot of things to overcome to get there but it is nice that we can if we want to - I think he would be good enough."
After a punishing season which saw Mullins chase training titles at home and in the UK, Mullins felt the race may have been one step too far but he is already eyeing a return in 12 months' time.
"Nichols Canyon did not jump that well and maybe wasn't best suited by going left-handed, while Shaneshill ran a big race. However, for both horses this was probably one race too many, but we look forward to returning next year," he said.