by George Wells
We have another action packed weekend of racing to look forward to, and this time it’s an Irish feast at the Curragh! Where better to start than taking a look at Saturday’s Group 1 Irish Derby at 5.30pm, and fingers are crossed that the two big guns take their chance.
Most punters will be asking themselves the same questions; can Kingston Hill reverse the form of the Epsom equivalent? Or will Australia confirm himself as the king of the middle-distance colts? If you’re expecting me to come up with something more imaginative, think again! In a renewal that lacks strength in depth, I simply cannot see any of the other rivals (including Fascinating Rock, Orchestra, Kingfisher & Geoffrey Chaucer – all of whom finished down the field if the Derby) troubling the two at the head of the market, especially now that Godolphin’s True Story has not been declared.
Aidan O’Brien was particularly bullish about the chances of Australia before Epsom, and given his pedigree, it was hardly surprising to see him improve for the step up to a mile and a half. In truth, it was hard not to be impressed. However, the same could be said for the Roger Varian trained runner-up, who was only beaten fractionally more than a length on that occasion. What was most pleasing about Kingston Hill’s performance was the attitude he showed after being headed inside the last quarter of a mile. Let’s not forget that they went a good clip that day, and he was up with the leaders the whole way. It would have been very easy for Andrea Atzeni’s mount to throw in the towel, but he battled all the way to the line.
At the time of writing this, Australia is best-priced 4/11 and Kingston Hill can be backed at 4/1. Whilst Australia is without doubt a worthy favourite, I can’t see why the difference in price is so vast. For me, the weather holds the key to Saturday’s classic. O’Brien has suggested in the past that Australia wouldn’t enjoy the soft ground, but we know that Kingston Hill would relish it. The going currently remains good-firm, but they’re expecting more rain at the Curragh over the next 24 hours. Despite O’Brien’s mightily impressive record in the race, I would be leaning towards backing KINGSTON HILL @ 4/1 in the hope that some rain gets into the ground. If the ground does remain good-firm, it is unlikely the son of Mastercraftsman will take part, meaning punters will be refunded. I would have liked to have backed him each-way; however with a disappointing 7 horses declared, only the first two are placed.
Come Sunday, the attention will turn to the fillies in the mile and a quarter Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at 4.20pm. This strong looking renewal (including two classic winners) has a far more open look to it, and plenty seem to have chances.
5 year-old, Ambivalent bids to defend her title for Roger Varian. She won the Group 2 Middleton Stakes nicely at the Dante meeting and was not disgraced when third behind Cirrus Des Aigles in the Coronation Cup earlier in the month, so must be respected. Roger Charlton’s Thistle Bird comes in off the back of an impressive win at the Derby meeting, but she has a very sketchy overall profile. The Irish Champion Trainer saddles 3 in the mile and a quarter contest, most notably MARVELLOUS. The Irish 1,000 Guineas victor was slightly disappointing when finishing 6th in the Oaks, but the Epsom track may not have suited her and it’d be no surprise to see her regain the winning the thread on home soil and dropping back in trip. The three year-old is blinkered for the first time and in receipt of a 12lbs from all but one of her rivals. Don’t be put off by the fact that Joseph O’Brien is riding stable-mate Venus De Milo, as that is most likely to be a result of the low weight to be carried by the selection.
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