It’s a tea-time slot for the 150th running of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, the Curragh’s famous mile and a half Group 1 which, with a pair of red-hot overseas visitors, could be ripe for British-picking for the first time since the late Sir Henry Cecil struck with Commander In Chief, way back in 1993!
You’ll see the big one live with us on RTE2 at 6.30pm, when the €1.25m prize fund will be fought over by a field of eight.
John Gosden has never won the Irish Derby, but the Newmarket master trainer will surely never have a better chance than with Dante and Epsom Derby bridesmaid Jack Hobbs, who has been finding stablemate Golden Horn too good, but beating everyone else with plenty to spare.
The Halling colt towers above his rivals in the betting in a race where five of the last 10 favourites have delivered, after a trio of fine efforts in 2015.
Four and a half lengths and a further two lengths are the margins that separated him from re-opposing rivals Storm The Stars and Giovanni Canaletto at Epsom, with fellow hopefuls Kilimanjaro and Carbon Dating further back.
One of betting’s great idiosyncracies is revealed by the market for this race…..Storm The Stars finished comfortably ahead of Giovanni Canaletto last time out, yet many bookies have the latter shorter in their prices.
Aidan O’Brien has won eight of the last nine renewals of this race, with an even more impressive 11 overall, so there’s evidently the trainer factor.
Also to be included is the influence of Ribblesdale winner Curvy – she doesn’t appear here but beat Giovanni Canaletto in a tight finish to his Epsom prep race in the Cuuragh’s Gallinule Stakes, so her Royal Ascot win pays that form a compliment.
Speaking of fab fillies O’Brien also sportingly runs shock Oaks winner Qualify – she popped up at 50/1 at Epsom, earning a wild card entry for this race.
Even so, if there is to be a shock Storm The Stars is the horse to provide it.
He could very well end up chasing compatriot Jack Hobbs home, but at a tasty each way price he gets the vote, especially with Stoke firm bet365 offering him at 8/1 with a quarter the odds, so essentially a 2/1 winner even if he can only manage third.
A very strong stayer, his broader form profile is excellent, with two wins this season plus a solid second in the Chester Vase, as well as his outstanding effort at Epsom.
What’s more, I’m sure it won’t have escaped John Gosden’s notice that Storm The Stars was the horse who got within a head of the mighty Golden Horn in a mile maiden at Nottingham in October, on a day when the former was sent to post the even money favourite.
Different season, different ground, different track, different trip it may be, but even so it’s a nice nod to the form book and enough to suggest Storm The Stars heads to the Curragh with place prospects at the very least.
Elsewhere, in-form trainer Mark Johnston can’t stop having winners, with a double on Tuesday followed by trebles on Wednesday and Thursday.
He saddles just one in the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate at 3.45pm, Newcastle’s premier staying race which, madness personified, is staged on turf for the final time before next year’s switch to the gruesome all-weather.
There’a a myth circulating that four-year-olds don’t win this race, though clearly nobody bothered to explain that to Toldo in 2006, Juniper Girl a year later, or Tominator back in 2011.
Johnston takes aim here with fast improver Notarised, who carries a five pound penalty for last week’s mile and three quarter success at Goodwood.
The last three winners of this race have come from a single figure draw, so you can imagine Johnston was none too distressed when Notarised was allocated stall two.
He’s got a lovely racing weight and can improve for this first try at two miles.
Saturday’s best bets:
6.30 Curragh – Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby – 7 Storm The Stars (each way) @ 8/1 (bet365)