THE racing circus rolls into the Curragh this weekend for what is always a highlight of the flat turf season.
The Irish Derby is the jewel in the Irish racing crown and has been won by some of the legends of the sport.
From Shergar to Galileo and everything in between, this is a race that can define careers and make dreams become reality.
The race has been dominated by Aidan O’Brien in recent years, winning 10 of the last 14 renewals with plenty of placed efforts for good measure.
Tomorrow afternoon, the Ballydoyle maestro goes in search of a record 14th win in the race — an achievement unthinkable for so many who simply aspire to have a horse good enough to run in such a race.
Naturally, Ballydoyle have strength in numbers, but their main hope of further success likely rests on the shoulders of Santiago. This Authorized colt put in a strong staying performance to win the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot just eight days ago, raising the question — is the Irish Derby coming too soon?
It’s a valid concern for those thinking of having a wager, but the manner of his victory at Ascot leads you to believe that he is the most likely winner tomorrow, especially with the ground likely to be soft or worse.
This leads us to our next question, who can realistically stop Aidan O’Brien this weekend?
Personally, I think the main danger to the Ballydoyle battalion is Joseph O’Brien’s Crossfirehurricane. Unbeaten in his four starts career to date, this American bred colt was most impressive when coming from off the pace over 10 furlongs in the Gallinule Stakes at the track a fortnight ago.
This is a big ride for his jockey Shane Crosse, who still claims 3lbs but has struck up a great relationship with this colt. The Ballylooby native is only 18-years-old but rides like a guy with decades of experience.
Everyone will be aware that the extra distance is the main worry for Crossfirehurricane, thus it’s fair to say that Crosse will have to reserve every bit of petrol to ensure he gets home.
Santiago is proven over 14 furlongs while Crossfirehurricane (below) has never run beyond 10. It’s not difficult to know what will happen here. The pace will be strong - relentless even. But remember what happened with Sovereign and Padraig Beggy last season?
Don’t let them go too far in front!
It might be Derby weekend, but we have another Group 1 on Sunday that features some very smart mares who have already proven themselves top drawer.
I’m hoping Magical will line up in the Pretty Polly Stakes, a race won last year by subsequent Breeders’ Cup winner Iridessa. Magical has been a star by any standards.
She has won nine of her 21 starts including 4 Group 1 races and beat the classy Addeybb in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last October on heavy ground.
She’s the class act of the race and with ground conditions to suit, it would be a bombshell were she to get beaten.
It’s been just three weeks since racing resumed, but we have learned plenty in a relatively short period of time.
Jessica Harrington is on fire, as is the Johnny Murtagh stable. Frankie Dettori remains the best jockey in the world. However, I think the classic generation are a particularly interesting bunch this season.
It seems the three-year-old fillies are much better than the colts. Fillies such as Love, Peaceful, Frankly Darling, and Alpine Star all look capable of beating the boys if or when they should ever meet.
This weekend, the Irish Derby hands the advantage back to the boys. Can a colt lay down the gauntlet?
It is notable that Joseph O’Brien has supplemented his 1,000 Guineas fourth, New York Girl, for the race at a cost of €50,000. Salsabil became the first filly in 90 years to win the Irish Derby when she won in 1990 and only three fillies have attempted to emulate this success since Balanchine won in 1994.
Either way, history will be made tomorrow afternoon!