Horse Racing Tips

Saturday Irish Racing Tips: Hannibal to rule in Irish Derby

Mark Milligan has two selections at the Curragh on Saturday

"He still didn't look the finished article last time and will only get better as he gains in experience"

Back Hannibal Barca each-way in 15:45 Curragh at 9.08/1

Mark Milligan takes a look at Saturday's Irish Derby, where he has a selection in that race and a pick in one of the supporting contests...

The betting appears to make Saturday's Irish Derby (15:45) a straight shoot-out between Oaks winner Tuesday and Derby third Westover, and while that pair bring the best form to the table, there are a couple in here who could potentially improve enough to get to that sort of level.

I'll deal first with Tuesday, who is bidding to become Aidan O'Brien's fifteenth winner of the race, and the first filly to be successful in the contest since Balanchine way back in 1994.

While she was more than likely a little fortuitous in her Oaks win - things clearly didn't go right from the start for runner-up Emily Upjohn - she still merits the utmost respect as a clearly improving filly, who only turned three years old earlier this month.

There's probably still more to come from Tuesday, and the 3lb she receives from the colts in here hands her a tidy little advantage.

Westover had a bit of a luckless passage on his way to a third-place finish behind Desert Crown the day after Tuesday had taken the Oaks, where he would have been a clear second had he got a trouble-free run.

He looks a thorough stayer, one who certainly has St Leger written all over him, and seems sure to give another good account, particularly with this track likely to play more to his strengths than Epsom.

A couple of improvers to watch

Piz Badile was a long way down the field at Epsom but may well not have appreciated the track there, taking a keen hold and effectively done with early in the home straight.

The son of Ulysses made the breakthrough at pattern level when a narrow winner of the Ballysax at Leopardstown on his reappearance in April, where he displayed a very willing attitude.

This will be just his fifth start, and with that Epsom effort readily forgiven, it would be no surprise whatsoever were he to put up a much better showing on this more conventional track.

There also should be plenty more to come from Lionel, who is making just his fourth career start here following a listed success at Goodwood last time, where he got the better of Aldous Huxley by a neck.

Like Westover, he's another whose stamina seems very much his forte and can only improve for an extra furlong or so here.

Happy to side with Hannibal

One who could improve markedly for a step up to 1m 4f for the first time, though, is Joseph O'Brien's Hannibal Barca, who looks every inch a middle-distance colt to me.

Fourth to Luxembourg in last year's Vertem Futurity at Doncaster (beaten just 2 lengths), he was purchased for 500,000 guineas after that run and made a winning start for new connections in the 1m 2f Group 3 Gallinule at this track last month.

He still didn't look the finished article there and will only get better as he gains in experience, and I'm absolutely convinced this extra two furlongs will see him to even better effect.

With eight runners going to post, Hannibal Barca makes plenty of appeal from an each-way perspective, with that Doncaster form last season some of the best on offer.

Wexford could be just too good

The other horse that interests me on the Derby card is Wexford Native, who I readily admit comes with a few risks attached but could just be way too good for the listed field at 14:35 if putting it all together.

The Jim Bolger stable have made no secret of the regard in which they hold this son of Teofilo, so it's probably fair to say they're bound to be a touch disappointed by his return of just one win from four starts.

However, he's kept some top company so far this year, including when fourth to Native Trail in the Irish 2000 Guineas last month, a run that encouraged connections to have a stab at the St James's Palace at Royal Ascot on his most recent outing.

Wexford Native never gave himself any sort of chance there, though, pulling way too hard to get home.

And therein lies the rub.

If Wexford Native does the same this time around, the result could be mirrored, though if he does settle, my thinking is he'll simply have for too many guns for this field.

With a couple of prominent racers lining up, I think we can be hopeful that the selection will drop his head this time, his Guineas run testament to what he can do when he gives himself a chance.

He's also in the best of hands to iron out any kinks he may have and I'm willing to take the chance that he could prove a cut above this opposition, particularly as he looks every inch a Group 1 performer physically.

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