Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 16 December 2017

Moonlight can produce magic

Smart Bolger colt fancied to defy ground fears in Derby

Minding ridden by Ryan Moore wins the Investec Oaks at Epsom ahead of Architecture and Frankie Dettori who finished second Photo credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire.
Minding ridden by Ryan Moore wins the Investec Oaks at Epsom ahead of Architecture and Frankie Dettori who finished second Photo credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire.
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Investec Derbys simply don't come any more open-looking than todays'.

Anything could happen, of course, and it's worth remembering how Workforce bloomed in similar circumstances in 2010. Last night, though, it was 5/1 the field, with Wings Of Desire and US Army Ranger vying for favouritism.

Aidan O'Brien's quest for a sixth win in the £1.5m Epsom Classic is spearheaded by US Army Ranger, but the market indicates a paucity of confidence behind the Rosegreen team. Ryan Moore's mount has scope to improve on his narrow Chester success over Port Douglas, but whether he can do so quickly enough to win here is another matter.

Idaho might be a Ballydoyle dark horse. He is a fair yardstick that was running on in defeat in Leopards-town trials behind Harzand and Moon-light Magic.

At odds of up to 20/1, it would be no surprise to see him place.

Wings Of Desire's profile is more precocious after he progressed to readily land the Dante. He won a maiden over 12 furlongs at Wolverhampton, though just beating Deauville and Foundation - two exposed sorts - in the Dante hardly screams Derby-winning form.

Still, John Gosden's colt is a big player under Frankie Dettori. Parallels have been drawn between Cloth Of Stars and Andre Fabre's 2011 hero, Pour Moi, while Ulysses took three attempts to win, beating a raft of newcomers at long odds-on at Newbury.

Michael Stoute and Andrea Atzeni are an intriguing amalgamation, but this is a big step up. On breeding, there are stamina doubts about the 2,000 Guineas runner-up Massaat.

In an overall sense, the seven-strong raiding party looks sure to hold its own. Harzand is charged with securing Dermot Weld an elusive Derby triumph, and he has been popular in recent days.

With conditions drying, it is hard to be too confident about a horse that clearly loves the mud. Still, his form is decent and he has a fine temperament.

Moonlight Magic might be best equipped to plunder a famous victory. As a son of Sea The Stars' sire Cape Cross and a daughter of a sister to John Oxx's brilliant 2009 Derby hero, Moonlight Magic's pedigree is pristine.

Unbeaten in two as a juvenile, he flopped in deep ground behind Harzand on his Ballysax return.

Jim Bolger's horses were not right at the time, but this handsome colt then bounced back to form when responding well to pressure to claim the Derrinstown Stud trial on May 8.

Although he didn't draw clear, the steady pace will have compromised that possibility, and he also idled in front late on.

Nonetheless, with Shogun, Idaho and Beacon Rock behind, the form is on a par with everything bar that of Massaat, and Moonlight Magic has scope to keep progressing.

The chief concerns in relation to the Godolphin colt are the slow underfoot conditions, but they are drying, and his Ballysax flop was due to more than just the ground.

At odds of 12/1, then, Moonlight Magic's prospects of emulating New Approach's 2008 triumph for Bolger and Kevin Manning are seriously underestimated.

Earlier, it is worth taking a chance on O'Brien's Found foiling Postponed at odds of 7/2 in the Coronation Cup. In two starts over 12 furlongs, this redoubtable filly was fifth in the Arc and then beat Golden Horn at the Breeders' Cup, so the return to this trip is key.

Irish Independent

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