Monday 23 April 2018

O'Brien trio lead Derby charge

Colm O’Donoghue drives Qualify (right) to victory from Legatissimo (Ryan Moore) in the Epsom Oaks
Colm O’Donoghue drives Qualify (right) to victory from Legatissimo (Ryan Moore) in the Epsom Oaks
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Aidan O'Brien stretched Irish trainers' 100pc record in this year's English Classics to three at Epsom yesterday and he spearheads a five-strong Investec Derby raid with a trio of runners this afternoon.

Of course, had Qualify not prevailed for the peerless Ballydoyle handler in the Oaks, Legatissimo would have done so for David Wachman.

However, it was O'Brien - along with the under-utilised Colm O'Donoghue, having his first ride for the stable this year outside of France - who conspired to deny the 1,000 Guineas-winning market leader with an unconsidered 50/1 third string. That was a timely reminder that you discount at your peril the influence that he can have on any of these Group Ones.

The man who has won the last three Derbys and five of the last 14 isn't responsible for any of the first three in the betting for today's prestigious £1.3m feature. Hans Holbein and Kilimanjaro are available at fancy odds and Giovanni Canaletto is as big as 9/1.

To many observers - this one included - they don't possess the credentials to prevail in one of the sport's premier three-year-olds-only events.

Neither, though, did Qualify, nor Ruler Of The World, a Galileo full-brother to Giovanni Canaletto that won the 2013 Derby for Moore when perceived to be the second string.

On that occasion, the favourite Dawn Approach self-destructed. Should the likes of Golden Horn, Jack Hobbs and Elm Park fail to live up to expectations this time, you can be damn sure that the three headgear-sporting runners from Rosegreen will lead the charge to pick up the pieces.

O'Brien has twice completed the Oaks-Derby double and he is now just one shy of a century of English Group One winners. Wachman, although he would have too much good grace to admit it, will have been cursing his genius yesterday when Legatissimo was poised on the verge of greatness.

Today, Ken Condon will be among the mere mortals looking nervously over their shoulders. The shrewd boss of a modestly-sized Curragh operation was convinced by Robert Ng, the owner-breeder of Success Days, to cough up €75,000 on his behalf to supplement the grey for the Derby.

Given that the Jeremy colt has accumulated €111,800 in winning each of his three soft-ground outings this year, Ng mused that he had earned a shot at glory. He paid just €20,000 for Success Days' dam in 2002 and Jeremy was standing for a paltry fee of €3,000 when he died in the autumn, so it would be some coup were he to achieve ultimate glory by seeing off his more expensively produced rivals and claim the £813,221.40 winner's purse.

"He has won the best two trials in Ireland impressively and while people might say they were small fields in soft ground, they always are," Condon noted of Success Days yesterday.

"The Derrinstown might not have produced that much recently but until five or six years ago all the greats won it. He's well entitled to take his chance. We've no idea how good he could be and I hope he runs well."

The fifth Irish contender is Pat Shanahan's Ronan Whelan-ridden Carbon Dating, a maiden that finished over 15 lengths behind Success Days in the Derrinstown Stud Derby trial and 12 lengths behind Gleneagles in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. A more likely winner for the cross-channel contingent may be Tracy Collins' Chiclet, which seeks a four-timer under Chris Hayes in the five-furlong Dash.

If all that weren't enough, there is the small matter of American Pharoah's Triple Crown bid in tonight's Belmont Stakes, and tomorrow the mighty Hurricane Fly will strive to add to his 22 top-level victories under Ruby Walsh in the French Champion Hurdle.

Walsh's doughty sister Katie is pencilled in to ride the always game Thousand Stars, a dual winner of the extended three-mile Grade One, with Paul Townend aboard Val De Ferbet.

In total, Mullins has seven runners on duty at Auteuil, but Hurricane Fly remains the apple of his eye. "He seems real well and in good form," he said of the brilliant 11-year-old. "They always water the track well and hopefully that will suit him. I'm very happy with him."

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