PAT KEANE: Don’t get too carried away with Harzand - he still has plenty to prove

It mightn’t be wise to get too carried away with dual Derby winner, Harzand.

He’s talented, tough, resolute and possesses a terrific will to win, but essentially we remain in the dark as to how good he really is.

You don’t win at Epsom and the Curragh without being near top class, that’s a given, and he very much reminds one of Sinndar, the way he digs down deep and finds for pressure.

The fact, like Sinndar, that he is owned by the Aga Khan, means the Prix de L’Arc De Triomphe on October 2 is the logical target for the son of Sea The Stars. The probability he would have his favoured soft ground is an obvious plus.

But a cold analysis of Harzand’s form tells us that he still has a way to go before we might consider him for the autumn spectacular and a top price this week of 7-1 for the ’Arc was less than tempting.

The big disappointment of the Irish Derby, of course, was the fact that Aidan O’Brien’s US Army Ranger was unable to meet the engagement.

He was beaten a length and a half into second by Harzand at Epsom and, being so lightly raced, has massive scope for improvement.

Ryan Moore was set to ride him at the Curragh and was then switched to the O’Brien ‘second string’’ Idaho. Now Idaho was third at Epsom and had two and three quarter lengths to find on Harzand.

The fact he ran Harzand to half a length a week ago had to leave the O’Brien camp wondering what might have been had US Army Ranger been able to take his place in the field.

It is also worth noting that Joseph O’Brien, when asked recently what horse he would most like to own, responded, “US Army Ranger.’’

The other question mark against the Irish Derby form is the proximity of the third, Stellar Mass, who had been regarded as a professional loser, until Ronan Whelan found the key to him in a Curragh maiden.

Kevin Manning was then in the plate subsequently when Stellar Mass produced a fine performance to land the valuable Ulster Derby Handicap at Down Royal, under 9-6.

He went up 8lbs for that, but even off his new mark of 100 was rated 23lbs inferior to Harzand. He was only beaten a total of four and a quarter-lengths and tells its own story.

Incidentally, Stellar Maas has paid the penalty for his audacity and went up 14lbs this week, effectively saying goodbye to handicaps.

Anyway, what it all indicates is that Harzand still has plenty to prove and we will especially look forward to when he takes on the older horses.

AT the Curragh last Sunday Aidan O’Brien won four races and it really summed up what the man is all about.

Price of place, obviously, went to the brilliant filly Minding, who trounced four older fillies in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes.

This was her fourth run of the season, all at the top level, and she arrived on the back of a hard race, finding every bit of trouble that was going, when landing the Epsom Oaks.

You might have thought a break would have been in order, but the O’Brien decision to turn her out again relatively quickly reaped a rich dividend.

He just doesn’t believe in wrapping his inmates, at least the vast majority, in cotton wool and more than earning their keep is the name of the game.

That was very much in evidence with O’Brien’s three other winners at the Curragh, Sir Isaac Newton, Sword Fighter and Roly Roly all having been in action at Royal Ascot.

Roly Poly had been afforded an 11-day break, it was nine days in Sword Fighter’s case and just eight for Sir Isaac Newton.

WHAT is Aidan O’Brien going to do with Gleneagles’ brother, Taj Mahal, now? He made his debut at the Curragh on Sunday and there was great word for him throughout the morning.

The son of Galileo was heavily wagered on the exchanges and on course and punters then sat back and waited for a seven-furlongs contest that was going to take less than 90 seconds to run.

The expectation was that this would make most pleasant viewing, but nothing could have been further from the truth.

Taj Mahal looked a real dose and never went a yard for Ryan Moore. He eventually trailed in a bad seventh, beaten ten lengths.

Essentially, he literally refused to race for Moore, showing a marked reluctance to go forward, and, if you were able to set aside for a moment both his exalted breeding and exalted connections, would immediately conclude that Taj Mahal is worthless.

O’Brien also ran another Galileo newcomer in the race, a horse called Inca Gold, who ran a cracker to finish three lengths second behind shock 50-1 winner, Tommy Stack’s first-timer, Alexios Komnenos.

But here’s the rub, I’m told that Inca Gold is actually Taj Mahal’s lead horse on the Ballydoyle gallops. Could that be true?

WELL, William Buick will serve the 30-day ban incurred at Chantilly last month in the French Oaks, half of it for his riding aboard Highlands Queen and the other half for his subsequent behaviour in the stewards’ room.

The French Galop appeal panel confirmed the penalty on Wednesday and isn’t there something almost refreshing about an appeal panel that respects and confirms the actions taken by the local stewards on the day?


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