FRAN Berry aims to improve on his personal best of third place in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby when reunited with Curtain Call at the Curragh on Sunday.
Berry partnered Shalapour to a valiant third behind Hurricane Run three years ago.
“I was lucky to get the ride (on Shalapour) because Mick Kinane’s mother sadly passed away,” recalled the jockey. “He was working very well before the race, although it was a big step up in class.
“The race went to plan and I had a good chance two furlongs out before Hurricane Run went past and he stayed on well to be a nice third, which was one of the highlights of the season for me.”
Berry knows the Luca Cumani-trained Curtain Call well having been in the saddle for all his five races as a two-year-old when the colt was with Jessica Harrington.
He now replaces Jamie Spencer following his disappointing show in the Vodafone Derby when he was only 10th behind New Approach.
“I’m definitely looking forward to Sunday as it’s my home track and it’s great to have a ride in the Derby with a live chance as before his run in the English Derby, his form is quite good,” said Berry.
“The weather has been right and if we get any more rain, the ground will suit my fellow and might not suit some of the others.”
Curtain Call split New Approach and dual 2000 Guineas hero Henrythenavigator in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh in August before running out an impressive winner of the Group Two Beresford Stakes there a month later.
But he was only fifth in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on his final start last autumn.
“Obviously I haven’t ridden him since the Racing Post Trophy, which was a good while ago, but he was very straightforward as a two-year-old,” Berry added.
“He had been running over seven furlongs which was a bit short for him before he went up to a mile in the Beresford when he improved and he always rode like a horse who would be good over a mile and a half as a three-year-old.”
Even so, Berry fears New Approach is a cut above the opposition.
“New Approach is definitely the one to beat as he pulled and never really settled in England and his performance to win on the day was top-class. It’s hard to see beyond him if everything goes right for him on Sunday,” he said.
Jim Bolger’s charge has been installed 4-5 favourite by Ladbrokes ahead of Tartan Bearer at 7-2, while Curtain Call is 16-1.
Their spokesman David Williams said: “The Irish Derby has a record of throwing up red-hot favourites and we reckon the 4-5 is only going to shorten up.
“New Approach should get his ground and for once there don’t appear to have been any hiccups in the race build-up. If punters get stuck in this week, he could go off much nearer the 4-6 or 4-7 mark.”
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