Gary O'Brien: My weekend picks for the Irish Derby Festival
In his weekly Betway blog, the Irish racing broadcaster previews a cracking weekend at The Curragh, including the Irish Derby and Pretty Polly Stakes.
AUGUSTE RODIN looks a bright prospect. He finished second on his debut here, when he went off odds-on. This race can often throw up above-average newcomers though, so I’m sure the market will guide us.
Readers of this blog will know I’m mad keen on STATUETTE . She was very good first time up and the fact she’s bypassed Royal Ascot to have an extra week is a positive, especially with her stablemate Meditate actually winning the race she would have gone for. That bodes very well. It was a strong race that she won at Navan and I’m very keen to see her out again.
Zarinsk looked good on her debut at the Guineas meeting, but I was very impressed with Statuette and think she’s the one to beat.
The third race is a really tricky sprint handicap where the draw could play a big part. Head Mistress is interesting for Ger Lyons and Colin Keane. She’s only had one start this season, where she didn’t pull up any trees, but is likely to improve for it.
Rough Diamond is a course-and-distance winner who wasn’t beaten far by some horses who line up in the higher-class Rockingham later on the card, and another to note is Swift Flight, who is better than what we saw last time out. This track and the extra furlong should suit him well.
The aforementioned Rockingham is another competitive sprint handicap.
It could boil down to the rematch between Additional and EROSANDPYSCHE but, with latter likely to come on for first run of the season – and the fact I think he’s better over 5f – I’ll side with him. His trainer is putting a visor on him for the first time and that could bring out some further improvement.
It could be a quickfire double for the Paddy Twomey yard, as LA PETITE COCO is the one to beat in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes. She improved no end last year and beating Love in the Blandford Stakes is top form.
Her stablemate Rosscarbery has been in grand form this year, winning four on the bounce, but La Petite Coco has the best form despite the lack of a recent run.
DAME RAPIDE is a very interesting runner in the Ragusa Handicap. He’s two from two since joining Barry Fitzgerard and, even though the handicapper has had a big swipe at him, he could well be in the mix.
Young ride Jack Coen looks a very promising rider and he’s been booked for the ride of THE NAMES JOCK , who was disappointing last time out but has been dropped 1lb in the handicap. If he puts that run behind him, the pair could go well.
LECALE’S DESTINY shaped well at Gowran Park, coming from off the pace to finish second. The stable is going well, and I’d expect he’d improve for that run.
COUGAR is turning out pretty quickly having run in the Ulster Derby at Down Royal last weekend. He was only narrowly beaten and winning a maiden should be a formality to him. He sets the standard on what we’ve seen of these so far.
The opener on the Irish Derby Day card is a 6f Listed race where Power Under Me is the one to beat on all known form, but, with his penalty – coupled with defeat last time out – I’d be looking to take him on.
His stablemate PIRATE JENNY was only narrowly beaten last time out, and the lightly-raced filly could have more improvement in her.
If the rain does arrive, EMILIE GRAY has good claims in the second race. They’ve booked Danny Gilligan for the ride, too. He’s a 10lb claimer, but he’s got plenty of racing experience from his days on the pony circuit. She ran well here on her penultimate start and wasn’t beaten far in Germany last time.
Another filly that I think can go well is DEXTER BELLE , who ran well on her comeback run last time.
STRAIGHT ANSWER looked as though 7f might be his limit prior to his run last time but, on the back of that effort, you’d think he might even stay a mile. He finished the race off very strongly last time when he was second to his stablemate Dr Zempf.
I thought EMPHATIC ANSWER ran well last time, so I expect her to be in the mix, too.
The Railway is very tricky. The three horses towards the head of the market are coming off the back of good runs at Royal Ascot but, given the Coventry traditionally boasts the stronger field, you’d have to side with BLACKBEARD , who ran well in defeat.
I have to make a small case for SHARTASH who, if the rain falls, could be a fly in the ointment. He beat Age Of Kings last time up and could be a colt with a bright future.
I’d have to sway towards TUESDAY in the Irish Derby. It’s not a stellar renewal of the race, but you can’t knock what she’s done this season. She’s been placed in both the English and Irish Guineas before winning the Oaks at Epsom earlier this month. She stayed very well that day, too.
You could make a case for Lionel from the David Menuisier yard. He looked a strong stayer when he won the Cocked Hat at Goodwood last month.
Duke De Sessa could have run in the Irish Derby following three good runs this season, but his connections have opted for this easier assignment.
I don’t suppose he’ll be far away, but he’ll have to go some to beat RUMBLES OF THUNDER who could be the one. Paddy Twomey has aimed a team of horses for this weekend having not sent any over to Royal Ascot, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him have a winner or two.
START LINE is a horse I like. He’s one of the most inexperienced in the field, but he’s clearly very capable. He’s improved on each of his runs this season and, although his opening mark looks stiff, he looks like he’s got plenty of ability.
Another horse I think will go well is PIERRE LAPIN , who won the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes as a two-year-old when he was trained by Roger Varian. He’s now with Ado McGuinness and I think his first run back this season was full of promise. He runs off the same mark on Saturday and might not be far away.
BAY OF BENGAL is the least experienced in this field, but he’s also the least exposed. He did really well at Gowran Park last time after coming off the pace from an unpromising position, which is often tough to do around there. He runs off the same mark and looks to have plenty of ability.
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