Stars camp have ground for optimism

A warm Friday and a positive weather forecast provided hope for the organisers of Sunday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby that Sea The Stars will be among the line-up.

A warm Friday and a positive weather forecast provided hope for the organisers of Sunday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby that Sea The Stars will be among the line-up.

The colt’s trainer John Oxx was concerned about conditions becoming too soft at the Curragh after 12mm of rainfall on Thursday night.

A going change to good to yielding in places was also not music to his ears.

Oxx is biding his time before making a concrete decision about the participation of his brilliant Epsom Derby and 2000 Guineas winner, but has declared Sea The Stars to take on a field of 12.

Paul Hensey, the Curragh’s racecourse manager, said: “It has been a nice day, the sun is shining and the ground is drying.

“The forecast is for lovely weather on both Saturday and Sunday. Obviously it will be John’s decision whether he wants to run.

“We’re in the lap of the gods, but we’d be really hopeful the forecast is accurate.”

Sea The Stars was joined in the field by seven runners from Aidan O’Brien’s stable, including the second, third and fifth from Epsom – Fame And Glory, Masterofthehorse and Golden Sword.

Johnny Murtagh, Seamie Heffernan and Colm O’Donoghue will ride those horses respectively, while O’Brien gives a first Classic mount to his teenage son, Joseph, who has only ridden in public a handful of times.

O’Brien jnr is on Byzantine, who is accompanied in the line-up by fellow stablemates Drumbeat, Hail Caesar and Rockhampton.

Murtagh has a healthy respect for Sea The Stars as he links up with Fame And Glory for the first time since April’s Ballysax Stakes.

“It’s going to be a great race,” he said.

“I rode my horse last week and he felt like he had improved from Epsom. He’s a solid, typical Ballydoyle improver.

“Sea The Stars is the champion and we all have to beat him.

“Everyone’s there at the Irish Derby, the cards are there to be played and it all depends which horse has improved the most.”

O’Brien, who fielded six runners at Epsom, admitted it can be hard to work out the pecking order of the Ballydoyle team.

“Obviously there is not much between the horses that ran at Epsom, and it’s which ones come forward from there that is always a difficult thing to know,” he told RTE.

“Some go back, some go forward and some stand still – usually at the races we find out.

“Sometimes you’re surprised, sometimes you’re disappointed – that’s life.

“The Irish Derby is probably the most important three-year-old race over a mile and a half in Europe because all the good three-year-olds meet.

“If there are any question marks about Epsom, or France or anywhere else, it’s always answered at the Curragh.”

One man who will be keener than many for Sea The Stars to take his chance is Fran Berry, who would otherwise lose the ride on Oxx’s second-string, Mourayan, to Mick Kinane.

Kinane rode Mourayan in his two starts this season, when behind Fame And Glory in the Derrinstown and Ballysax Derby trials.

“I’m looking forward to it, but I’m just hoping the weather is fine and Sea The Stars runs,” Berry told At The Races.

“Mourayan is a very nice ride to get and the trip of a mile and a half looks ideal for him.

“I’ve ridden him at home for the last couple of weeks and his work has been very good.

“He seems to have sharpened up and you couldn’t be more happier going into the race, he’s definitely as good as he can be.

“He’s bred for the trip and his running style suggests the extra two furlongs will be a big help to him.

“Leopardstown can be tactical, and you need a horse that can quicken, so hopefully a mile and a half at the Curragh will be right up his street.”

Recharge was only beaten one length by Sea The Stars as a two-year-old, which is giving Kevin Prendergast some hope.

He was fourth in the Irish 2000 Guineas last time.

“I’m hoping the step up in trip will suit him, but we’ll have to see,” said Prendergast.

“He didn’t run at all really in the Guineas as the ground was bottomless and he ran far better than we thought. He’s really a dry-ground horse.

“Our horse wasn’t beaten far by Sea The Stars in the Beresford Stakes last year and, if everything goes right, he’ll run a big race.”

Jim Bolger has won the Derby only once with St Jovite in 1992 and relies upon Gan Amhras.

Second last in the Derby, the flatter plains of the Curragh are expected to be much more up his street.

“We hope so,” said Bolger.

“He’s in good form but Sea The Stars is obviously the top three-year-old.”

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