Taking on Australia in the Irish Derby is only for the wilful, the ignorant or the wilfully ignorant. I've been guilty of all three with Ballydoyle horses in the past but won't be going back for more punishment here; he has beaten his opponents before, promises to be better on faster ground than at Epsom and is back on home turf now. A price of around 1.42/5 makes no appeal to me for any horse but it's probably only going to get shorter between now and post time.
The angle into the race can only be in the place or without Australia markets when these go live on Betfair. And there could be a weak link heading this in second favourite Kingston Hill. He ran an excellent second in the English Derby but there are concerns about him reproducing it on even faster ground. He never really travelled at Epsom, suggesting a horse that might prefer some cut to slow the others up, and he's not getting that here, the only rain forecast enough to keep the dust down. A very good horse no doubt, he may be seen to better effect under different conditions.
True Story is another that seems very short coming off two disappointing efforts and may be in need of a break, an idea that was put forward by connections after Epsom. They now seem inclined to go back to the well but he is not good enough in any case, his one standout piece of form beating Obliterator hardly solid, that one beaten a combined 156ls in two runs since.
I liked the Derrinstown form pre-Epsom but it's been devalued since, getting a triple knock in the Derby with all three of the main players flopping and the fifth from the race has since been well-beaten at odds-on in a weak maiden. Excuses can be made for the runs of Geoffrey Chaucer and Fascinating Rock at Epsom - the former lost his action whereas the latter was trapped very wide and got badly hampered. The doubts about stamina and fast ground remain with Fascinating Rock however and his trainer has been making noises about his participation should rain or watering not happen.
Ryan Moore will have a big say in how this market is shaped outside of the front two as his chosen mount will likely be the clear Ballydoyle second string on the day. He picked Geoffrey Chaucer at Epsom but apparently it was very close between that one and Orchestra and the latter will be the value in the place and without markets.
Like Geoffrey Chaucer, his Epsom race was a mess; he sweated up pre-race, was keen, seemed not to handle the downhill section of the track and was hampered. Unlike the great poet however, his Chester Vase form was greatly enhanced by Romsdal running third and he looked to have a bit in hand when beating him in the trial. You have to be forgiving to back him here, but that's the case with just about everything bar Australia and Kingston Hill, and he shouldn't be nearer the outsider of the field than the front of the market. Hopefully Moore will think the same and choose him for Saturday.
The Scurry at 16:15 is the feature handicap on the Derby undercard and probably the feature sprint handicap of the Irish season. There are some early prices available already but it's a race to treat carefully if you're betting ante-post as there are a couple of vital caveats that make this best played in the day of the race market.
Firstly, 10 of the 36 entries are trained in England and we simply don't know who among them will run. Some of them will take their chances and if they do it could shift the market heavily but there has been little coverage in the press about their participation.
Secondly, and this is probably a bigger concern, is the draw: this is one of the most biased races of the season. The Curragh have been preserving ground at recent meetings for this weekend and they will race hard against the rail for these three days which often means a golden highway develops for those drawn stands' side. In the last five renewals on decent ground, with good-yielding taken as the cut-off point, the winner has been within five stalls of the near rail. The boxes of the placed horses back this up; of the 20 horses to run second to fifth in those years, half have been drawn within seven stalls of the rail. High numbers are the ones to concentrate on and the draw on Friday morning will be vital.
Leaving that aside, a few horses make appeal. Alkasser and Dashwood look the pick of the Irish. The former was talked about for both the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Jersey so should be able to make a splash off 105 while the latter is simply a thriving handicapper at present. Of the raiders, Wokingham fourth Alben Star makes plenty of appeal with the sectionals suggesting he's better than that form while the likes of Watchable and Discussiontofollow are on the up.
The Group 1 feature of Sunday's card is the Pretty Polly Stakes for fillies and mares but it's an asterisked top-level contest in truth, barely worthy of the name if Marvellous doesn't show up. She would have a major chance even off the back of a middling run in the Oaks as there was a multitude of excuses; the trip could have been too far, the track didn't suit and it was coming quickly after a massive effort in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. It's also worth noting that Aidan O'Brien has twice won the race with 3yo fillies off similar preparations, Peeping Fawn in 2007 and Misty For Me in 2011.
Even so, my preference is for the more reliable Ambivalent. She won another weak renewal of the race last year but has improved since then, mixing it with some top older males like Gentildonna and Cirrus Des Aigles over a mile-and-a- half, and she is better over ten furlongs. She showed a good attitude in winning the Middleton at York, something that hasn't always been the case with her, and seems sure to run her race.
Back Orchestra to place and without the favourite in the Irish Derby when they open on Betfair
Back Ambivalent in the Pretty Polly Stakes