Tuesday 21 November 2017

Weld's Harzand can allay concerns and join exclusive Derby double club

Dermot Weld. Photo: Sportsfile
Dermot Weld. Photo: Sportsfile
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

It isn't unusual for a late call to be made on the participation of the Derby hero in the Irish version, and Dermot Weld will today make a final decision on Harzand fulfilling its brief as tonight's star attraction.

In 2009, John Oxx belatedly opted not to risk the brilliant Sea The Stars on the sodden Curragh turf. Three years later, Aidan O'Brien permitted Camelot to do so despite the prevailing gruelling conditions.

Camelot laboured home, but it will not be lost on Weld that it was a win that came at a cost.

Consensus goes that Camelot was never the same again, and, given the Rosewell House's maestro's concerns about how much the whole Epsom experience took out of Harzand, turning the Aga Khan's colt out for this €1.5m Classic 21 days later involves inherent risk.

It is a judgement that only Weld (right) can make, and he sounded quite optimistic yesterday. "All being well, the horse will run," he said. "He has been out this morning and we are satisfied with him."

We'll soon find out for sure, but, in contrast to the aforementioned two examples involving 2,000 Guineas victors, this time the prospect of soft ground is not a deterrent.

Harzand would relish any softening of conditions if he is to vie to become the 18th horse to complete the Derby double, and the third since 2012, following Australia in 2014.

Yesterday, the ground was good to yielding, good in places. In four starts, the Sea The Stars colt has run just once on a similarly decent surface. That was on his autumn track debut at Gowran Park, the only time that he suffered defeat.

He twice impressed in bottomless going earlier this year, before ground that was on the easy side at Epsom enabled him to produce a memorable performance that might not have got the credit it deserves.


Under a typically proficient Pat Smullen steer, Harzand seized control in the straight.

US Army Ranger had to expend a lot of energy to get into a challenging position, but Idaho was in the box seat all the way, and Harzand emphatically put him in his place, as he had done in the Ballysax Stakes. That was his destiny.

Today, Moore switches to Idaho, so it is no surprise to see the new Ballydoyle number one attract market support. If the ground doesn't deteriorate, the Epsom third's chance will improve, but Harzand warrants the benefit of the doubt.

Clearly, he is a horse with bundles of quality, but he also possesses a willing attitude.

When you factor in that the Curragh should suit such a determined galloper far better than Epsom, you'd like to think that he can confirm his superiority over Idaho.

In the context of this 12-furlong Dubai Duty Free-sponsored showpiece, the other seven runners are uninspiring, with just the supplemented Red Verdon not trained in Ireland.

Jim Bolger's Moonlight Magic is the only one that appeals as being capable of an upset.

He beat Idaho and Shogun when successful in the Derrinstown Stud trial. However, he ran deplorably at Epsom, so it would constitute one of Bolger's finest feats were he to prevail.

O'Brien saddles War Decree and Peace Envoy in his quest for a 13th Gain Railway Stakes success. Moore is on the Norfolk fourth Peace Envoy, but a chance is taken on War Decree under Colm O'Donoghue.

The War Front colt showed a good attitude to get up at Leopardstown, and he should be able to cope with the drop from seven to six furlongs.

O'Brien and Moore are trusted with the nap vote in the opening juveniles' maiden. They combine for Intelligence Cross here, another son of War Front that came home well when denied a head by Grand Coalition on its Curragh bow.

The likes of Imagine If, Rock In Peace and Perfect Soldier have all shown ability as well, but Intelligence Cross could yet prove to be very smart.

Later, Moore will partner Botany Bay. Successful in last year's Ulster Derby off a mark of 77, Charles O'Brien's four-year-old contests the two-mile handicap off 86, having recently run well behind Ascot winners Order Of St George and Jennies Jewel. He has it within his range to win a competitive handicap like the one that he tackles here.

Irish Independent

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