Friday, 22 May 2009

The Luck of the Irish !

Irish domination of Epsom Derby is 'only a blip' claims trainers' chief

• British trainers' chief sees no cause for concern
• 14 of 20 runners likely to be from Ireland

Aidan O'Brien has nine of the 20 remaining entries for the Investec Derby at Epsom two weeks tomorrow, and Ireland has 14 in all, after the latest forfeit stage for the premier Classic yesterday. British stables are responsible for the other six entries, though extra names can be supplemented at the five-day stage on 1 June at a cost of £75,000.

The composition of the likely Derby field appears to justify the recent decision of William Hill to stop taking bets on an Irish-trained winner. O'Brien alone seems likely to send out at least half a dozen starters, and could yet exceed his record total of eight Derby runners two years ago.

Despite Ireland's domination of the entries Rupert Arnold, the chief executive of the National Trainers' Federation, said yesterday that the collective failure of British handlers to summon up a single obvious Derby contender is "only a blip".

"I think it's just the way things have fallen that all the best colts seem to be in Ireland," Arnold said. "I certainly don't think that there is any great significance or any underlying cause for concern.

"It's surprising that one of the big battalions hasn't come up with something, but, who knows, maybe Debussy [John Gosden's Blue Riband Trial winner, currently a 50-1 chance with Totesport] will win it."

Along with Crowded House, who flopped when favourite for the Dante Stakes last week, and Godolphin's Kite Wood, another failure in the same race, Debussy is joined in a motley assortment of British-based entries by Montaff and Father Time, second and third in the Lingfield Derby Trial, and South Easter, the Dee Stakes winner.

Victory for an Irish-trained runner at Epsom would be the country's fifth in 10 years. The last French-trained Derby winner, by contrast, was Empery in 1976. Four of the last five winners of the 2,000 Guineas have also been trained in Ireland, including Sea The Stars, currently second-favourite behind Fame And Glory.

O'Brien, Fame And Glory's trainer, offered no suggestion yesterday that his challenge for the Classic will boil down to a handful of runners.

Fame And Glory, Black Bear Island, Age Of Aquarius and Golden Sword have all won Derby trials in recent weeks, while Rip Van Winkle, Masterofthehorse and Freemantle are among those to have run eye-catching races in defeat.

"The horses have run well and the ones that ran early improved from their first run to their second," O'Brien told At The Races yesterday. "The ones that didn't win their trials still ran well, so it's so far so good.

"Everyone is saying that Fame And Glory was the most impressive winner [in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial] and, obviously, we see the same."

Rip Van Winkle, fourth home behind Sea The Stars in the 2,000 Guineas, is the one major contender from Ballydoyle who has not contested a Derby trial, apart, of course, from the Guineas itself.

"He had a very interrupted preparation for the Guineas and ran a real good race," O'Brien said. "Since then he pulled off a shoe and was a little bit tender for a few days but, other than that, everything was fine with him.

"He's a balanced horse with a lot of natural speed. He's got a great stride and is determined, so you wouldn't think there should be any problems with Epsom.

"I don't know at the moment how many runners we will have [but] when the horses have come through their trial, then it's very hard to bypass the Derby."

No comments:

Post a Comment