Friday 23 March 2018

Speaking Of Which a Derby doubt

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

THE Curragh's eagerly anticipated three-day Derby extravaganza will get under way this evening on ground that was last night officially described as soft, heavy in places.

Thankfully, the Kildare venue avoided the very worst of the deluge that hit parts of the country early yesterday morning and the immediate forecast for the local area is largely dry.

Still, conditions are sure to be extremely testing for tomorrow's premier Irish Classic.

In 2009, a similarly concentrated downpour prompted John Oxx to scratch Sea The Stars from the showpiece Group One at the eleventh hour.

While there has been no suggestion that our latest 2,000 Guineas-Epsom Derby hero, Camelot, might suffer a similar fate, the participation of Speaking Of Which, one of the Ballydoyle star's main rivals, is now in some doubt.

Along with the long odds-on favourite's stablemates Imperial Monarch and Astrology, the field is completed by Jim Bolger's Light Heavy and Oxx's Akeed Mofeed and Born To Sea.

Potentially, while lacking a cross-channel runner, it is a field of some depth, though few would bet against the unbeaten Camelot delivering Aidan O'Brien his 10th triumph in the prestigious event on its inaugural outing as a Saturday evening climax.

As for tonight's card, identifying horses that are capable of coping with plenty give will be the key to finding winners.

Ronan's Bay, one of a select few that George Kent trains at his Waterford base in Tramore, appeals as one such prospect in the Silken Thomas Handicap.

Of the three last-time-out winners in the 10-runner heat, the Aga Khan-owned pair Massiyn and Vedani have appeal, but Ronan's Bay might yet prove a shade better than a handicapper.

Successful in a Fairyhouse maiden last year, he then ran well behind the subsequent 1,000 Guineas heroine Homecoming Queen here in October, and had last weekend's Down Royal winner While You Wait in arrears when second to Mizani at Navan last time.

If he improves for that off a modest first-time mark of 85, he can justify the nap selection under Danny Grant.

In the featured Irish Stallion Farms EBF Handicap, Oxx's Long Journey Home gets the nod over Tommy Carmody's progressive three-year-old Ursa Major.

An eye-catching fourth to Strandfield Lady, which has won again since, on his Leopardstown reappearance, Johnny Murtagh's mount should strip fitter now in its quest for a generous €42,000 first prize.

Just prior to that, Tommy Stack's in-form Equity Swap, twice a winner with a cut in the ground already this term, can bring up his hat-trick under Shane Gray in the Eflow Rewards Apprentices' Derby.

Aidan and Joseph O'Brien should get their weekend off on the right foot with Where and Wonderful in the opening two contests.

Where, a Danehill Dancer filly out of the stable's 2005 1,000 Guineas victor Virginia Waters, has her first start in the opening Fillies Maiden, with Wonderful, fourth to Wednesday's smart scorer Caponata last time, a solid option in the Sycamore Lodge Equine Hospital Maiden.

Irish Independent

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