Prendergast's Sugar Boy gets Derby send-off
Leading Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby contender Sugar Boy will have his last run for Patrick Prendergast on Saturday after being sold to Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.
Although the colt would probably be happier on softer ground, the son of Authorized has been touted as a dark horse for the Curragh showpiece on the basis of his solid form credentials.
On his most recent appearance, he secured a determined victory in the Sandown Classic Trial – in which he beat subsequent Epsom Derby second and third, Libertarian and Galileo Rock. He will run for Prendergast in this weekend's feature, but will be switched to an unspecified trainer afterwards – most likely Mike de Kock.
"He has been sold to Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum (cousin of Sheik Mohammed of Dubai fame), but we will continue to train him for the Irish Derby," explained Prendergast. "That is what we're focusing on and it would be absolutely great if he can go and win it. He's in great form.
"He's been a great servant to us, we'll be sorry to see him leave, but there will be no long faces as we do sell horses on."
Only two men have trained more Irish Derby winners than the four sent out by Prendergast's legendary grandfather 'Darkie', Vincent O'Brien with six and Aidan O'Brien, who is going for his 10th – and eighth in a row – with a team headed by Ruler Of The World.
The Sugar Boy deal has been brokered by Blandford Bloodstock agent Stuart Boman, who did not want to disclose who the colt would be trained by after his Classic attempt.
Boman said: "He will stay with Patrick Prendergast, who has done such a fantastic job with the horse, until after he runs in the Irish Derby. After that he will be transferred."
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa has a long-standing association with South African trainer De Kock and has also had horses in training in Britain with a number of handlers in recent years, including Mick Channon, Richard Fahey and Marco Botti.
As for the rest of the Curragh card, Ballydoyle supremo O'Brien is responsible for five of the 14 remaining fillies in the mix for Sunday's Oxigen Environmental Pretty Polly Stakes.
The trainer has saddled two previous winners of the 10-furlong Group One in Peeping Fawn (2007) and Misty For Me (2011) and this year's quintet is headed by 2012 Epsom Oaks heroine Was. Ribblesdale Stakes runner-up Just Pretending, Magical Dream, Say and Moth are also included.
Among the other leading contenders are Dermot Weld's Princess Highway, Tommy Stack's Alive Alive Oh and Kevin Prendergast's La Collina.
Glen's Diamond and Royal Diamond, first and third in last month's Yorkshire Cup, feature among 10 possibles for the At The Races Curragh Cup on the same afternoon.
The victory of the former – trained by Yorkshire-based Louth native Richard Fahey – was its first since the Dee Stakes in May 2011 while Johnny Murtagh's Royal Diamond, last year's Irish St Leger hero, showed distinct signs of a return to form on the Knavesmire.
As well as Glen's Diamond, there are two other prospective British raiders in the Roger Varian-trained Mijhaar and Sir Graham Wade from Mark Johnston's stable.
O'Brien may ask El Salvador to go into battle again after his sixth place in the Royal Ascot Gold Cup while he could also call on Ernest Hemingway.
John Oxx has Call To Battle, Oliver Brady has Zafarqand and Weld may rely on Voleuse De Coeurs. The potential field is completed by Midnight Soprano, which landed the Group Three Noblesse Stakes at Cork last week.
Meanwhile, the prevailing fast ground is set to rule favourite Tiger Cliff out of Saturday's Northumberland Plate. The Lady Cecil-trained four-year-old ran a fine second in the Ascot Stakes eight days ago and had been as short as 4/1 for Newcastle's historic two-mile event, but now looks certain to miss the contest.