SportRacing

Jack Hobbs the one to beat in Irish Derby

RacingBy Derek Treacy
William Buick aboard Jack Hobbs
William Buick aboard Jack Hobbs

Aidan O'Brien declared the track at the Curragh in "beautiful condition" as he prepares to take on Investec Derby runner-up Jack Hobbs with a four-pronged attack on the 150th Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby this evening.

Qualify, a shock 50-1 winner of the Oaks at Epsom, is part of the O'Brien team as he chases an astonishing 12th success in the showpiece mile-and-a-half event.

The number one hope on jockey bookings appears to be French Derby runner-up Highland Reel, with Ryan Moore riding on the crest of a wave following his astonishing week at Royal Ascot.

Colm O'Donoghue keeps the ride on Qualify, while Epsom Derby fourth and sixth, Giovanni Canaletto and Kilimanjaro, are partnered by Joseph O'Brien and Seamie Heffernan respectively.

O'Brien, who has won eight of the last nine runnings, said on Friday evening: "I walked the full mile and a half of the Derby track and it is in beautiful condition. They have done a good job.

"All four horses are in good form, and it will be interesting to see how Highland Reel gets on stepping up in distance. I think he'll get the trip.

"The race at Epsom probably came a bit too quick for Giovanni Canaletto, while Kilimanjaro has come forward well and I think a small field will suit him better.

"Qualify is the interesting one. Colm gave her a lovely ride in the Oaks, and the last furlong she came home very strong. The Curragh will suit her."

The unbeaten Radanpour takes a big step up in class after winning each of his three starts this season, completing the hat-trick in Leopardstown's King George V Cup at Listed level three weeks ago.

His trainer Dermot Weld said: "He's a lovely genuine horse and will run a good race. However, we would like to have seen a lot more rain and the ground is drying out all the time. He handles soft ground very well."

John Gosden expects the demands of the Curragh to bring out the best in Jack Hobbs, although he would like sufficient ease in the ground for his runner, who is the 4-5 favourite with William Hill.

Six months to the day since making a winning debut in a Saturday night maiden under the Wolverhampton floodlights, the imposing son of Halling will be the hot favourite to provide the Newmarket trainer with a first victory in Ireland's premier Classic.

It has been a rapid ascent for the three-year-old, whose remarkably facile comeback victory in handicap company at Sandown marked him down as a potential star.

He subsequently found stable companion Golden Horn too hot to handle in the Dante at York and it was the same story at Epsom, but with his old rival safely tucked up in his box, Jack Hobbs looks to have an excellent opportunity to enjoy his day in the sun.

Gosden said: "He's a tall, rangy horse and he'll be having a nice break after this until the autumn as I wouldn't want to race him on through the summer. I think a galloping track like the Curragh should suit him well.

"I'm very happy with him, he worked last Saturday and I was very happy, he worked with a lead horse and Robert Havlin rode him, he was nicely clear on the bridle at the end.

"He took Epsom very well, he ate up and all of that, he's a big boy.

"We fully respect the quality of the field, which includes an Oaks winner, but it's not a race I got greatly involved with in the past, so it would be extremely nice to win."

Epsom third Storm The Stars has four and a half lengths to make up with the Gosden runner and trainer William Haggas admits it looks a tough ask.

"The horse is very well and we came to the conclusion if we didn't run he couldn't win," said Haggas.

"John's horse looked marvellous before the Derby at Epsom and ran a pretty good race, so he'll be hard to beat.

"Then you have an Oaks winner, a few more of Aidan's and an unbeaten horse of Dermot Weld's (Radanpour), so it's not going to be straightforward, but then it is an Irish Derby.

"I think they're going to have a bit of rain, but not much, and a good friend of mine who walked the course tells me it's pretty firm.

"We wouldn't mind a bit of rain, but I think the horse most inconvenienced by fast ground would be John's. That's pretty well publicised, I think.

"We're entitled to be there, so we'll give it a go and see what happens."

An eight-strong field is completed by Pat Shanahan's Carbon Dating, who was a huge price when eighth at Epsom and is likely to be three-figure odds once again.