Horse Racing Tips

Mark Milligan's Big Race Preview: Take improving Matsuri to win Irish Derby

Mark Milligan steps in for Kevin Blake and brings you the latest Big Race Verdict, previewing Sunday's Irish Derby at the Curragh...

  • The Irish Derby is the culmination of an excellent three-day Curragh meeting

  • Epsom form strongly represented

  • Mark's going for a fresh, unexposed runner

Sunday's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (16:05) is the highlight of the weekend and the obvious starting point when looking at the race is Epsom, where that form is most strongly represented by both the runner-up and third there, Ambiente Friendly and Los Angeles.

James Fanshawe's Ambiente Friendly ran a cracker there having previously taken the Lingfield Derby Trial in impressive fashion.

Despite sweating up beforehand, he was the pick on this year's form alone and fully confirmed that, just no match for the outstanding City Of Troy, who returned to the top of his game, but impressing with the way he went through the race and just unable to find the same turn of foot as the winner.

Connections have supplemented him for this and there's little doubt that a repeat of that Epsom form will make him tough to beat, though that's obviously very much factored into his current price of 5/42.25.

The main Ballydoyle contender

Aidan O'Brien unsurprisingly provides the stiffest opposition to the favourite, having already taken this race a record 15 times.

The master of Ballydoyle provides half of the eight-strong field and the aforementioned Los Angeles looks the clear pick of his quartet.

A big, well-made son of Camelot, Los Angeles went into Epsom unbeaten in three starts, the latest of which came in the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown.

Another who got rather on his toes and a bit sweaty beforehand, he also gave trouble going into stalls and lost his unbeaten record but still ran a fine race, doing well considering he helped force the pace before just running out of steam late on.

With loads of stamina in his pedigree and that substantial physique, a programme involving this race seemed an obvious next move and it would be no surprise if he develops into a St Leger candidate a bit further down the line.

Aidan's other runners

With Euphoric likely to take up pacemaking duties as he did at Epsom, and The Euphrates having a fair bit to find on the balance of this year's form, the other Coolmore runner to concentrate on may well be Grosvenor Square.

The winner of a maiden and a Group 3 contest as a juvenile, this son of Galileo reappeared in the Chester Vase in May, shaping as if the run was just need as he finished third to the ill-fated Hidden Law.

Given that plenty from the stable were coming on a bundle for their seasonal debuts, it's probably fair to assume that Grosvenor Square himself can improve markedly on that effort.

It's fair to assume he's bred for the job too, being a half-brother to the stable's 2020 winner of this race Santiago.

He will need to improve a touch, though, for all his form is already of a reasonable standard.

The new shooter

Speaking of potential improvers, there's a horse in the race that could well be markedly better than he's shown it may well be Roger Varian's Matsuri.

Highly thought of by his trainer, this son of Sea The Stars was due to be on the Derby trail earlier this season but didn't come to hand all that quickly and apparently scoped poorly before his intended reappearance in the Sandown Derby Trial.

When he did appear for the first time this season, it came in the slightly less glamorous surroundings of a Leicester novice contest, but he could hardly have been more impressive, storming eight lengths of Fox Legacy whilst clocking an impressive closing sectional.

With sectional upgrades factored in, he ran to something around 111 on Timeform timefigures, which is pretty impressive for a horse making just a third career start.

Matsuri looks the potential fly in the ointment for the big two of Ambiente Friendly and Los Angeles.

Irish Derby verdict

The market has taken no chances here, with the pair with best form priced up at 5/42.25 (Ambiente Friendly) and 13/82.63 (Los Angeles) respectively.

If I was to pick between them, I'd go for Los Angeles as I think this track will play more to his strengths than Epsom did and it would be no surprise if he reversed placings with the favourite.

However, Roger Varian waxed lyrical about Matsuri in a recent interview with Nick Luck and this well-bred sort was highly impressive in demolishing lesser opposition last time.

If he's as good as he looked there - and his trainer clearly thinks he is - then he could well go very close here and I'm prepared to chance him to turn over the market leaders.

Now Read: More horse racing tips

Recommended bets


New customers only. Bet £10 on the Betfair Sportsbook at odds of min EVS (2.0) and receive £50 in FREE Bet Builders, Accumulators or Multiples to use on any sport. T&Cs apply.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.