Madhmoon to seal fairytale for Prendergast
There's no shortage of sub-plots heading into today's Group One Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (5.20) at the Curragh and not all of them are positive.
Curragh chiefs will lament the unfortunate timing clash with Kildare's All-Ireland SFC Qualifier meeting with Tyrone in Newbridge (5.0) and it's expected to hit the attendance of casual punters on their marquee day of the season, although many are expected to get their first taste of the top-class facilities.
Given the millions which were poured into the redevelopment of the Kildare track to help enhance its place as an international showpiece, the absence of a visiting party in the €1.5 million feature is similarly disappointing with no English or French interest among the eight runners.
With that being said, the Derby doesn't lack any intrigue as legendary trainers Jim Bolger, Kevin Prendergast and Dermot Weld - who can boast a staggering 147 years of training experience between them - do battle against each other for the first time in the 1m4f contest.
That's not to mention Aidan O'Brien going for an astonishing 13th Irish Derby success with hot favourite Anthony Van Dyck attempting to complete the Epsom-Curragh double, and land a maiden Derby for stable jockey Ryan Moore.
The real story is 86-year-old Prendergast, however, as the Kildare handler eyes his first Derby victory and pits his wits against the might of O'Brien's Ballydoyle battalion.
Were it not for Prendergast's Madhmoon - which finished a close second in the English Derby - O'Brien would have trained the first five home at Epsom and matched the staggering Gold Cup feat of Michael Dickinson in 1983.
Prendergast took out his training licence in 1963 (he celebrates his next birthday on Friday) and victory for Madhmoon would be the perfect present for the Kildare trainer on his local track.
Said to be "bombing at home", Prendergast has been bullish about his prospects and made no bones about saying that "whatever beats him will win".
The son of Dawn Approach will renew acquaintances with Anthony Van Dyck, which just got the better of him at Epsom, and Chris Hayes' mount wouldn't have to do much to turn the tables.
O'Brien saddles five of the octet with Epsom fourth Broome next best, but Anthony Van Dyck is prohibitively short and the value may lie in a fairytale victory for Prendergast with a flatter track likely to play to Madhmoon's strengths.
Bolger relies on Guaranteed and while Kevin Manning's mount may improve for the step up to 12 furlongs, it's hard to see him progressing at the rate which will be needed to make the frame, having struggled at Group One level when tailed off in last month's Irish Guineas.
Weld - Ireland's most successful trainer numerically with over 4,000 winners - already has three Irish Derby wins to his name in Zagreb (1996), Grey Swallow (2004) and Harzand (2016) while Rakan is the sole representative for the master of Rosewell House this time around.
No match for Broome in the Derrinstown Derby Trial, Rakan scored at Listed level in Leopardstown on his last start and will have to take a huge step forward to upset the market principals.
The Group Two GAIN Railway Stakes (4.40) will certainly whet the appetite before the main course and it has the potential to be one of most exciting two-year-old races of the season.
There may be only five runners but four have realistic claims, with Ger Lyons' Siskin and O'Brien's Monarch Of Egypt - two highly-rated colts - set for an intriguing duel.
Both are unbeaten with Siskin two from two having landed the Listed Marble Hill Stakes at this track last month and the Khalid Abdullah-owned son of First Defence looks a Group One prospect.
The same can definitely be said of Monarch Of Egypt, the first progeny of American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, which couldn't have done much more than he did when impressing on debut at Naas in April.
Ruled out of Royal Ascot because of a small setback, Monarch Of Egypt may lack the race fitness of Siskin, however, and Colin Keane's mount is taken to score in what should be a barn burner.
O'Brien throws another dart at the board in an attempt to join the late Vincent O'Brien with his 14th victory in this prestigious contest as Fort Myers takes his chance, while Kevin Ryan's English raider Romero is respected having scored readily on debut at Doncaster last month with the step up to 6f from the minimum distance sure to suit.
The Group Three International Stakes (3.30) has been a Ballydoyle bonanza in recent years with O'Brien landing five of the last six renewals, but his sole runner, Blenheim Palace, doesn't look up to winning this. The booking of Moore on William Haggas's Addeybb is eye-catching just 11 days after the five-year-old landed the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The son of Pivotal is the obvious selection on form but must concede 11lbs to his younger rivals with Joseph O'Brien's Buckhurst and Weld's Georgeville worth a second look. Georgeville was an easy winner on his latest start at Roscommon but this is a significant step up in class whereas Buckhurst was runner-up here in the Group Three Gallinule Stakes.
A repeat of that performance would leave the Australia colt right in the mix and Wayne Lordan is taken to do the needful in the saddle.
Joseph O'Brien may also be the man to follow in the Listed Dash Stakes (2.20) where Speak In Colours - which excelled at Group One level at Royal Ascot - could be a cut above the rest if showing up in a similar vein of form.