With a very cool €1,500,000 on offer for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh on Saturday evening, there is a lot at stake for the 12 runners set to go to post for the 1m4f showpiece event in Ireland this weekend. In reality though, prize money is a secondary focus for most horses here, with everything from middle-distance bragging rights, to breeding values, to restoration of pride brimming beneath the surface in view of this eagerly anticipated 5.15pm contest.
The horse with the most to lose and indeed the most to gain from landing this race is Saxon Warrior, the brilliant Qipco 2000 Guineas winner who was gifted the short straw before his seeming date with destiny at Epsom earlier this month. With so much talk about him developing into a genuine Triple Crown contender, being backed up by the horse being supported in the betting as if defeat wasn’t an option in the build up to Epsom, we were all being set up for a disappointment.
All was well, until he landed the coffin draw in stall 1, a near-on impossible place from which to orchestrate a Derby winning run around the unique and tremendously difficult 12 furlong course on the famous Downs.
Still, Saxon Warrior remained a strong odds-on shot for the race, perhaps owing to a hefty weight of bookmaker liabilities instead of his apparent chance of overcoming his unfortunate draw. He stumbled leaving the gates under Ryan Moore, but did manage to secure a decent position under the circumstances. In the home straight, he made up a fair amount of ground, but didn’t really find that gear required to get home strongly over the 12f trip. Absolute stamina remains an unknown for the horse and connections could’ve seen fit to drop him back to a mile or 10f on back of this; few would’ve batted an eyelid if they earmarked the Eclipse at Sandown instead of The Irish Derby as his next target. It’s not like O’Brien is short on more thorough stayers.
But none are as classy and valuable as this lad, so here we are. Will it be redemption day for Saxon Warrior? Who knows. If he’s good enough to bounce back, if the Curragh plays more to his strengths than Epsom did and indeed if he can prove 12f to be within his stamina compass, then he could well go ahead and justify odds-on favouritism and carry on his merry way toward middle-distance Superstardom.
But, as a value seeking punter, I simply have to take a view against him. There’s every chance Saxon Warrior could lose this race, and backing short priced losers is not healthy for the soul of this particular Irishman.
There has been strong whispers of a stern examination from Aidan’s son Joseph’s runner Latrobe, a horse subjected to plenty of market support this week. He was a course and distance winner last time out and is clearly unexposed, but an RPR of 91 and a Topspeed rating of 79 there gives the horse a fair old mountain to climb.
With that in mind, I’ll hazard a chance on Harry Dunlop’s KNIGHT TO BEHOLD for a working man’s each way punt at a decent price. This big, scopey son of Sea The Stars was a joy to watch in the Lingfield Derby Trial back in mid-May, where his relentless galloping style put his rivals to the sword from a long way from home. He absolutely thrashed Kew Gardens that day, who went onto romp home in the Group 2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot last week in impressive style. So the form stacks up, if even you do believe he had the run of the race at Lingfield under a typically astute front-running ride from Richard Kingscote.
Knight To Behold failed to fire at Epsom, weakening tamely out of contention. But at the prices and given the regard he is held in by his capable trainer, I’m hopeful this horse has a big run in him here. There are few better jockeys than Frankie Dettori when it comes to a front runner and if this pair get rolling on Saturday, they could take a big of pegging back. Certainly, the booking of Frankie to take the ride puts a smooth icing on the cake in committing to back the horse.
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Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.