The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh takes centre stage this weekend as brilliant Epsom winner Wings Of Eagles attempts to show he is no flash in the pan.
Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Wings Of Eagles went into the Epsom Classic having only a Killarney maiden win on his CV from five starts, duly going off a 40/1 outsider.
In the hands of unheralded rider Padraig Beggy, the partnership flew home late on to land Britain’s premier Classic and the world’s most iconic Flat race, narrowly denying market leaders Cliffs Of Moher and Cracksman as he did. The latter is 3/1 to reverse form in Ireland for trainer John Gosden.
That win has altered the landscape dramatically and Wings Of Eagles is the 2/1 favourite for the Irish Derby where stable jockey Ryan Moore takes over in the plate. Can he live with the hype and repeat his Epsom form?
As an O’Brien-trained shock Group 1 winner, history is not on his side. Of the 126 top-level winners trained by the Ballydoyle supremo aged three and older since 2003, only four returned starting prices of greater than 12/1 – and that quartet failed to win another race between them.
Backing Wings Of Eagles at a short price might leave punters with a sense of arriving ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ come Saturday evening.
O’Brien saddles five of the nine declared runners for Saturday’s Irish Derby (17:20) and ruling any of them out would be folly, as evidenced at Epsom.
That said, the form of French raider Waldgeist (9/4) looks very strong and his legendary trainer Andre Fabre has had this very race in mind for a while. A colt out of Galileo, he may just prove best in the Irish Derby line-up to give his trainer a third win in the race.
There’s also plenty of top racing in Britain on Saturday and it is Northumberland Plate (15:30) day up at Newcastle.
Brian Ellison’s Seamour appeared to have this race in the bag 12 months ago when Ben Curtis sent him for home, only for Antiquarium to finish with a wet sail and leave him in clear second.
Seamour is 5/1 to go one better now and races from a 4lb lower mark while he also showed himself to be in fine fettle last month in a Listed race at York. If Curtis can get him in position once more, redemption may be waiting.
Newmarket in July is a special place for racing and the Group 3 Criterion Stakes (15:15) is their centrepiece on Saturday.
Home Of The Brave (3/1) excelled on his reappearance at Leicester and having twice gone close last summer at a higher level than this, Hugo Palmer’s charge is expected to take plenty of beating in the seven-furlong race, with the Gosden-trained Richard Pankhurst (6/1) feared most in the opposition.
On to Sunday at the Curragh where there will be plenty of eyes on the International Stakes (15:15) as The Grey Gatsby makes his first start since being switched into the care of Dermot Weld.
The master of Rosewell House will certainly be hoping to hit the target in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes (16:20) with the talented Zhukova, who could prove one of the better bets of the weekend at around 6/4 for those that can last out!
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