Or so tradition would have it. Since Desert King won the race in 1997, Aidan O’Brien has won the race six more times and an entry of five horses suggests he’s hell bent on making it eight victories when the matinee Derby takes place at The Curragh tomorrow afternoon.
So, which one will it be then? Jockey Johnny Murtagh and trainer Aidan O’Brien appear to believe Cape Blanco is the one. That suggests that he’s been working particularly well of late for his effort in the French Derby was lacklustre, to say the least. Having meted out a comprehensive beating to subsequent Epsom Derby winner Workforce in the Dante, connections chose to sidestep the English race in favour of a Gallic raid.
That was a puzzling decision even allowing for the fact that they appeared to hold a strong hand in the Epsom race. As devil’s advocates, we punters must surmise that question marks over the trip of a mile and a half were foremost in the minds of the team when coming to their decision. There was no suggestion that he was stopping over ten furlongs at York but this will stretch him to his limit.
The stamina concerns make me believe that Ballydoyle’s pacemakers, should they even choose to dictate the pace tomorrow, will set no more than an even gallop. It’d be most surprising were the race run to suit the likes of Coordinated Cut, who is one of the few horses in the race in need of a stern test.
Jan Vermeer was the choice of Johnny Murtagh at Epsom, yet he has forsaken him after a modest display, possibly excused by the loss of two shoes mid-race. He’s never been a talking horse but his performances on the track have so often delivered more than was expected. A Group 1 victory on soft to heavy ground last year put him firmly in the Derby picture and his Gallinule victory here on his seasonal debut suggested he had thrived through the winter.
Like Cape Blanco, but perhaps less apparently, he has stamina issues. His form suggests he should stay but he’s yet to confirm it. This track should pose no problems and, if he does get the trip, he could bounce back from his Epsom disappointment.
At First Sight finished best of the Ballydoyle team at Epsom but he was subsequently quite comprehensively beaten in a modest looking King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. He was given a terrific ride to take second place behind Workforce at Epsom but there’s little doubt he was flattered by that effort and he’s an unlikely winner.
Monterosso won that Ascot race and the performance prompted his owner to supplement him for this. After one disappointing outing last term, he’s had a busy 2010 where he’s progressed with each of his seven outings. The latest run was a significant step forward on his previous form but this is another leap into the unknown. He’s basically a handicapper come good and, even in what looks a non-vintage Derby, he represents no value whatsoever at current odds.
Ex-Jim Bolger trained Chabal made a promising start to life at Godolphin when taking the Sandown Classic Trial but, as is his wont, he bombed out in the Dante. His talent is not in doubt but neither is his inconsistency and he rates a risky proposition despite drifting to tempting each-way odds.
The afore-mentioned Jim Bolger runs two horses, Puncher Clynch and Carraiglawn, but they would appear to be in over their heads. Their trainer’s ability to get long-shots to go so well on occasions such as this offers the only glimmer of hope. Bright Horizon and Midas Touch are the two O’Brien horses as yet unmentioned and it’s quite certain that the latter is the more interesting of the two. He got a pretty clear run in the Epsom Derby but appeared unable to let himself down on the track and thus finished quite a disappointing fifth behind Workforce.
He was behind At First Sight and Jan Vermeer that day but it was quite noticeable that he did stay on again when finally switched onto the rails inside the last furlong. This more orthodox track will play to his strengths and, as a guaranteed stayer with the pace to lie handy, he looks grossly over-priced at 7-1. In a race where Ballydoyle’s apparent stable selected has not always been the one to prevail, Colm O’Donoghue and Midas Touch can turn the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby into their Gold Run.