Cape Blanco bounced right back to his best to give Aidan O’Brien a fifth consecutive Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh – and could now clash with old foe Workforce at Ascot next month.
The Galileo colt was fulfilling his undoubted Classic potential to lead home a one-two-three for O’Brien, with the success taking the Ballydoyle maestro’s haul in the Classic to eight in total.
Cape Blanco (7-2) had defeated the runaway Investec Derby winner Workforce in the Dante Stakes, but was a mystifying disappointment when turned out again in the French Derby at Chantilly.
Johnny Murtagh kept faith and picked the chestnut over four other O’Brien runners in the race, headed by Midas Touch (9-2) and beaten Epsom favourite Jan Vermeer (4-1), and those were the pair to chase him home.
Just like in 2007, Mark Johnston was fourth, 3-1 favourite Monterosso replacing Boscobel. The Royal Ascot winner seemed to have an opportunity in the home straight but could not keep pace with the top three.
“I’m just delighted to be part of it,” said O’Brien.
“The last run in France was the only blot on his copybook and we couldn’t understand it.”
A fascinating rematch with Workforce at Ascot on July 24 now looks on the cards.
O’Brien added: “We thought before this race that if everything went well we would look at the King George. It’s not definite, but certainly possible.”
William Hill priced up a match bet on the pair, going 4-9 Workforce and 13-8 Cape Blanco.
Earlier, Jeremy Noseda’s Formosina broke the extraordinary stranglehold of O’Brien in the Ladbrokes.com Railway Stakes.
Formosina finished third to the Coventry Stakes winner Strong Suit on his debut before streaking clear at Doncaster, and this success came as no surprise to Noseda.
“He was travelling well and it was just a question of whether Ryan (Moore) would get the run, but he picked up well,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“I am sure he will get seven furlongs and I had the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in my mind before this.”
Victor Chandler gave the winner a 25-1 quote for next year’s 2000 Guineas, with Paddy Power going 20s.
Murtagh had a very lucky escape in the opener when Petronius Maximus was involved in a freak incident.
Murtagh was still travelling well in the Dubai Duty Free Full Of Surprises EBF Maiden when his mount suddenly seemed to lose his action and crashed into the rails.
But Petronius Maximus (5-4 favourite) got up and cantered away while Murtagh managed to rise to his feet and walked back to the weighing room with O’Brien.
They had been challenging Michael Cleere on Sydney Harbour (4-1), who were left alone and finished two lengths clear.
Winning trainer David Wachman said: “He’s a grand little horse and he could run in all those Group races – he’s well entered-up. He just didn’t get enough cover the last day.”
British sprinters tend to have the edge over their Irish rivals and overseas raiders filled the first five places in the Dubai Duty Free Sapphire Stakes.
The winner Glamorous Spirit (16-1), who was punched home half a length clear of Reverence, brought about several landmarks for Welsh trainer Ron Harris, who had also saddled the unplaced Judge ’N Jury.
“That’s my first Group winner and my first winner in Ireland,” revealed Harris.
There was further British cheer in the Dubai Duty Free Double Millionaire Handicap through Sea Lord (4-1).
Frankie Dettori rode his rivals to sleep with a stop-start pace and had too many guns for Scandal Sheet.
Johnston doubled up when Bay Willow (3-1) ran out the four-and-a-half-length winner of the concluding Dubai Tennis Championship EBF Handicap under Joe Fanning.