A bizarre edition of the Irish Derby this year being a victim of the Covid crisis and the major reshuffling of the Flat fixture list. It precedes the English equivalent, the traditional build-up has either been compressed, removed or comes rather close to this race so you'll have to be concerned about the quick back-up, and only three horses have won a Group or Listed race to date. Big scope for improvement throughout, and any of the stable stars from the big guns are likely to be going to Epsom or Longchamp instead.
Of the 15 declared runners, only five don't have "O'Brien" listed as trainer. Six for Aidan, three for Joseph and one for young Donnacha. And as we saw last year with Sovereign at 33/1, not being top of the jockey bookings doesn't instantly rule a line through any of their chances.
Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby
Group 1, 3yo, 1m4f
1915 local, 0415 Sydney 1415 New York
Impressive Camelot colt with a win and four seconds from five starts. Backs up from the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot where he ran second to Pyledriver, but ahead of what was thought to be the stable's blue-chip option for Epsom, Mogul. Was first-up since October, so will be fitter for the run but is the return too swift? Like many of these colts, they had to get a run in to prove their merit despite the short gap. Re the jockey bookings, I think Coolmore had to put Lordan and Heffernan (British-based jockeys are still not allowed to travel) on Arthur's Kingdom and Santiago after their runs at Royal Ascot - they'd look daft if they didn't - but I'm not automatically marking them as the top of the stable chances. Probably in the money but his track record suggests he doesn't get the head in front often enough.
Maiden colt with runners-up cheques in both his starts. Narrowly beaten by Nobel Prize (stable second-string in the Queens Vase won by Santiago) on a heavy track at Naas in November when it looked bottomless. Probably good enough to win a pattern race but first-up, unseen on a dry track, over a mile and a half - I'll pass, thanks. Note trainer is flying, with four winners from past five runners (before Friday night's meeting at the Curragh).
Brilliantly named colt, a name emanating from a Rolling Stones lyric, although it has nothing to do with his breeding. Unbeaten after four starts, won the G3 Gallinule Stakes here a fortnight ago comfortably. The runaway leader set it all up, he sat at the back, doing as little as possible, then cruised up to challenge and didn't need to push the button until the furlong pole. He did wobble a bit in the final stages, raising a slight concern over his determination in a tight finish over further. Drawn wide, likely to drop back as per last start but is adaptable if the pace isn't there. One of many in with a shot.
Another trained by Aidan O'Brien, supposedly fifth or sixth pick judged by the jockey booking of Ronan Whelan. Closely related to Derby winner Pour Moi. Not far behind Tiger Moth in a big field Leopardstown maiden in early June, when he went off favourite at 5/4 and ran second of the Aidan O'Brien 1-2-3-4. He wanted to hang in and wasn't pushed out fully at the finish, but he had all the favours in running and couldn't mark him up for that performance. The form out of that race is also a little concerning, the 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th and 12th have all been well-fancied in subsequent runs in maidens and not won (13th won at 50/1).
The only runner to come out of the Irish 2000 Guineas where he ran fifth, four lengths behind the impressive Siskin. That was a solid performance at just his second start but no shock - on debut he was only beaten a head by G1 winner Wichita in a maiden. The big question is will he stay? His sire Make Believe went no further than a mile. Progeny that have tried to stay are rated in Class 6 company. The best son of Make Believe so far is Mishriff, who after winning impressively over 1m2f at Newmarket on Guineas weekend, trainer John Gosden was emphatic that he'd stick to that distance as he'd struggle to stay any further. However, Fiscal Rules is from a Galileo mare, which flips the balance the other way. Drawn perfectly in five, I think his form is at least as good as any in the field, it's just a nagging doubt about staying the distance strongly. At 7/1, that's probably a risk worth taking.
A tad misleading in the name, he's only a grandson of the greatest sire in modern times, being by Derby winner Australia. Just the two starts under his belt, narrowly winning a 1m2f maiden here a fortnight ago over King Of The Throne. Can't see that form being up to scratch.
Ran second to Crossfirehurricane in a G3 here a fortnight ago. Had to do all the chasing behind the runaway leader on that occasion, while the winner sat quietly out the back. Previously he ran third in a G2 on a heavy track, recording an RPR which was matched in his recent run. By Golden Horn out of a Galileo mare, there's little doubt he'll be suited by the extra distance. Despite being a maiden, this race is not beyond him. The Foley/Harrington combination is 14/69 so far in June (pre-Friday meeting).
The most experienced of the field, but no wins in five runs since his debut victory last July. Finished third, and 1.5L behind subsequent Royal Ascot winner Russian Emperor in the Derrinstown Derby Trial when he had every chance. Drawn the rail, he'll either have to fly the gates to push forward, or will just be lost in the pack.
King of the Throne
Five-start maiden who has only been competitive in his most recent two races. But they were maidens, and this race will take a lot more to win.
Order of Australia
A two-start maiden, most recently third behind Tiger Moth at Leopardstown. To be ridden by Padraig Beggy, who has shocked punters to win Derbys on both sides of the Irish Sea, on Coolmore outsiders. On breeding, this one is perfectly capable of stepping up, with a relatively attractive price.
Winner of the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot last Friday, the favourite is off the quick back-up and drops 2f in distance. The obvious stable pick but is that just because he won at RA? It was hardly a strong renewal of that race, and while he did win easily, perhaps it's that distance and beyond he should be looking for, rather than coming back in trip. Or conversely, he's rock solid and a class above these? A second to Alpine Star (another RA winner) reeks of class but at the following start, he only finished a length and a bit clear of Sunchart, who is a big price here. At 3/1, I'm prepared to take him on.
The only Coolmore colt not by a Derby winner, which raises stamina concerns, although his damsire is the everpresent Galileo. Ran third behind Crossfirehurricane and Gold Maze in the G3 here a fortnight ago, having been squeezed at the half-furlong, potentially denying him a chance to be in the finish. Father Aidan has won the race 13 times, Joseph once - can Donnacha, the latest in the family to start training, join them at the winners' table? Chance but perhaps too short in the market.
Second to Santiago on debut and an impressive winner at Tipperary (>10L ahead of Dawn Patrol) in October, he ran last behind Cormorant and Iberia in the Derrinstown. His jockey that day reported the horse had felt the ground on the dry track, and with similar ground here, that must be a concern.
Third on debut behind the undefeated Ten Year Ticket, he broke his maiden the second time out at Leopardstown, ahead of Dawn Patrol and Order of Australia. No reason why there shouldn't be more to come, despite jockey bookings suggesting he's well down the ranks at Ballydoyle.
New York Girl
After recording a fourth behind Peaceful in the Irish 1000 Guineas, the owners of the only filly in the field appear to backing their opinion that this crop of 3yo colts aren't particularly strong. That run didn't scream she was looking for half a mile further, but she did play up behind the gates. The trainer had stated she was more of an Oaks than a Guineas filly in a stable tour earlier this year. On jockey bookings, she is the highest rated of the Joseph O'Brien trio, switching up from a claiming apprentice. Drawn wide, but certainly worth her chance here. She has the speed figures to be very competitive.
Santiago could just be the superior stayer, or he's a false favourite. I lean to the latter. Fiscal Rules has the strong Irish 2000 Guineas formline, while New York Girl comes through the fillies' equivalent. And then there's Jessica Harrington and Gold Maze. Happy to play those three at the prices, and combine in exotics.
Fiscal Rules (best price 8/1)
New York Girl (best price 14/1)
Gold Maze (best price 18/1)