Pat Smullen has confirmed that it’s all systems go for Harzand to make his bid for a famous Derby double at The Curragh on Saturday.
The Epsom victor has overcome not just the exertions of a hard-fought victory over US Army Ranger, who is likely to reoppose in the €1.5m Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, but the injury suffered on the morning of the race when he stepped on a nail after spreading a plate, threatening his participation in the race.
“Every day has been better since the race” said Smullen of the Dermot Weld-trained colt during a visit to his local national schools in Ballybryan and Rhode yesterday.
“He was obviously sore for a couple of days afterwards but they seem to be very happy with him now.
“The weather has broken that’s good. Provided he’s in good form during the week, hopefully he’ll take his chance.”
While Smullen and Weld were both winning the Epsom Derby for the first time a little more than three weeks ago, they have enjoyed success together in the Irish feature with Grey Swallow in 2004, while Weld was also victorious courtesy of the Pat Shanahan-ridden Zagreb eight years earlier.
The Irish Derby has struggled to attract the cream of the three-year-old crop in recent years despite very attractive prize-money and attendances have suffered as a result, although clashes with other major sporting events and heavy rain have also had a role in keeping the public away.
Smullen believes that the authorities might look at increasing the gap between the Epsom and Curragh blue riband contests but is pleased that Harzand’s appearance will prove a welcome boost.
“It’s always very important and good that we can get the Epsom Derby winner to the Irish Derby. That’s very important in trying to build the profile of the race again.
“They’re very close to one another – that’s probably another little issue too that might have to be addressed to give horses a chance.
But having the Epsom Derby winner will definitely up the profile again.”
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