Irish Derby: Waldgeist the one to beat for Fabre

The Irish Derby is the feature race from the Curragh on Saturday
The Irish Derby is the feature race from the Curragh on Saturday

Timeform's Adam Houghton previews the Irish Derby at the Curragh on Saturday...


"He did well under the circumstances to finish as close as he did that day, enduring a troubled passage as the field entered the final two furlongs..."

Galileo, High Chaparral, Camelot, Ruler of The World and Australia have all won the Derby for Aidan O'Brien since the turn of the century, and four of that quintet went on to follow up in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh, with only Ruler of The World letting the side down when fifth in 2013. Interestingly, Ruler of The World was one of five runners for O'Brien when winning his Derby at Epsom - a bigger team for the trainer than when successful on the other three occasions - which suggested that the Ballydoyle team was lacking a real superstar among their three-year-old ranks.

Fast forward the clock four years and we find ourselves in a similar position, with Wings of Eagles attempting to complete the English/Irish Derby double once more for O'Brien. He was one of six runners in the race for his trainer when successful last month, however, and his starting price of 40/1 suggested he was one of the least fancied of the bunch too. He found plenty of improvement for an increased test of stamina that day, winning in a style reminiscent of his sire Pour Moi, sweeping to the front close home and if anything value for more than the winning margin. He has the potential to progress further, though it's worth noting that each of O'Brien's previous Derby winners were sent off at odds-on at the Curragh - Ruler of The World the biggest at 5/4-on - and Wings of Eagles faces a battle just to hold on to his position at the head of the market in the coming days.

O'Brien is responsible for eight of the 12 entries as he seeks a remarkable 12th Irish Derby victory, with English Derby also-rans Capri (sixth), Douglas Macarthur (seventh) and Venice Beach (12th) the most interesting. Capri looked all about stamina when showing improvement for the longer trip at Epsom, his progress coming despite the track not seeming to suit him; Douglas Macarthur ran a cracker, used as a pacemaker, but going with plenty of zest and giving best only late in the day, while Venice Beach had beaten the winner at Chester the time before, but wasn't in the same form on the day and is another who did not look entirely at ease on the track. Douglas Macarthur makes most appeal of that trio if ridden more conservatively than he was at Epsom, though there is no obvious reason why he should reverse the form with the principals there.

That group includes Cracksman, who ran a huge race to finish a length third on that occasion, unable to justify good support on just his third start, not lacking anything for stamina over the longer trip, but leaving the impression that he was not yet the finished article. The Derby was clearly a lot tougher than the company he had previously kept, and he was also ridden more to the fore in a well-run race than the others in the frame, so deserves plenty of credit for his performance. He represents the John Gosden yard that won this race with Jack Hobbs in 2015 and there is a good chance he will make up into a high-class colt at some point this term, though whether that will come in time to reverse Epsom placings with Wings of Desire is another matter.

Dubai Sands and Grandee both have plenty to find at this level, though the latter is at least improving and left the impression he is worth a try in a higher grade when winning a listed race at Leopardstown (by two and a quarter lengths from Eziyra) last time. He is trained by Jessica Harrington who has enjoyed a terrific first half of the Flat season in Ireland, with similar comments applying to Andre Fabre in France, who would have won both the French 2000 Guineas and the French Derby, but for the exciting Jean-Claude Rouget-trained colt Brametot. The last-named had Waldgeist just a short-head behind when successful on the latter occasion at Chantilly and there are several reasons to believe Waldgeist can gain compensation here. He did well under the circumstances to finish as close as he did that day, enduring a troubled passage as the field entered the final two furlongs and keeping on well enough to suggest there could be more to come over this longer trip.

There doesn't appear to be much between the best three-year-old UK/Irish and French colts on the evidence we have seen so far, only 2 lb separating the big three on ratings here, and - a Group 1 winner as a two-year-old - Waldgeist appeals as the best value bet. He is 7/2 as he attempts to emulate the same connections' Hurricane Run, who finished second in the French Derby before winning here in 2005, and he gets the marginal vote in what the ratings suggest could turn out to be the most competitive renewal since 2013.

Recommendation:

Win back Waldgeist in the Irish Derby at the Curragh

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