It is one of the most-important days in the racing calendar, Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby day, and we are in for a treat, with the eight-race card containing two Group 3 races, 2 Listed Races, a Premier Handicap, a maiden for three year-olds, a six-furlong handicap plus the Group 1 feature race itself, which is due off at 7:15pm.
The card is previewed by our regular and popular racing pundit, Alan Marron
We are paying each-way 1/5 the odds on 4 PLACES in the Irish Derby – see race preview below
4.15 DUBAI DUTY FREE THE IRISH VILLAGE EBF MAIDEN
With not much form to go on here I am going to take a small chance on the Joseph O’Brien-trained EAGLEMONT. There is plenty of stamina in the pedigree and he will likely be more at home when he steps up in trip later in the year. His dam is related to Estimate, who won an Ascot Gold Cup, and Ebadiyla, who won the Irish St Leger.
This is not an overly strong race and, while market vibes are likely to hold their clues, Eaglemont could be a smart horse going forward.
4.45 DUBAI DUTY FREE CREEKSIDE HOTEL ALLEGED STAKES (GROUP 3)
SIR DRAGONET will be looking to get back into the winner’s enclosure following his trip to Royal Ascot where there was plenty of talk on how far the horse was out of his ground and was given too much to do.
I have watched the race back a few times and James Doyle, who rode the winner Mountain Angel, just got away at the vital time and Ryan Moore was unable to get back to him.
The manner of how Sir Dragonet travelled at Royal Ascot will really help him here and he should be able to show his turn of foot. He finished fourth in the St Leger at Doncaster last season when the trip was simply too far. I think he is much better when he gets to travel and get into a nice rhythm. Seamie Heffernan might decide to make the running here as there is not much pace in the race.
The likes of Buckhurst and Latrobe have stamina in abundance so Seamie will be thinking about getting them tapped for toe as they turn for home and see whether they can match Sir Dragonet up the straight.
Tactics are going to be a massive part to this race but I think Sir Dragonet looks the standout here and should prove very hard to beat.
5.15 DUBAI DUTY FREE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS HANDICAP
Formerly trained by Sheila Lavery and now in the care of the Johnny Murtagh, TAGGALO looks a very interesting runner here on handicap debut.
Her debut run looks much better in terms of form now as she finished fourth behind Windracer with Love back in second and Innervisions in third. Windracer contested Group company at the back end of last season while Love has gone on to win the English 1000 Guineas and is at the forefront of the market for the Oaks at Epsom.
On the back of that debut run Taggalo was sent off 7/4 favourite at Gowran Park on her next run but finished midfield behind the now unbeaten Silence Please, who trained by Jessica Harrington. Taggalo finished her season off at Dundalk where she again finished midfield behind In The Present.
She makes her debut in handicap company here off a mark of 70 and I think there could be plenty of improvement to come this year especially with the Johnny Murtagh team in red-hot form.
Given that she ran so well at The Curragh last season, I would be happy to take a chance on her here off a light weight on her first start for 204 days.
5.45 DUBAI DUTY FREE FINEST SURPRISE CELEBRATION STAKES (LISTED RACE)
For those of you who followed my jockey Q and As over the last couple of months, you may have seen that Oisin Orr nominated GEORGEVILLLE as his horse to follow and he makes his seasonal debut here.
This horse hasn’t been seen this this time last year and looks very interesting based on a couple of really nice runs. He broke his maiden at Cork and followed that up with a very taking success in Roscommon, where he stayed on really strongly to beat Nickajack Cave. Nickajack Cave did that form no harm by landing the “Saval Beg” at Leopardstown on his last run.
I expect Georgeville to come on plenty for this run but, if he is fit enough, his class could carry him through here.
Oisin was of the opinion he could be better this year as a four year-old so, whatever he does this weekend, keep a close eye on him for future reference.
6.15 DUBAI DUTY FREE MILLENNIUM MILLIONAIRE HANDICAP (PREMIER HANDICAP)
A very tricky puzzle to try and solve but there is one horse that deserves to win a decent pot and that is ICE COLD IN ALEX.
This horse has to be delivered late in the day and has found his fair share of trouble in recent runs. He steps back up to 7f following a nice run first time out this season over 6f. The handicapper is giving him every chance as he has left his mark unchanged at 85.
Niall McCullagh normally has the partnership with this horse and it is very interesting that Chris Hayes is on board this time. They will need to go fast up front as this horse likes to be a bit of a slalom skier late on and come through horses.
He looks a solid each-way proposition here and will be very hard to keep out of the frame, granted the luck in running that he will most definitely need.
6.45 GAIN FIRST FLIER STAKES (LISTED RACE)
CHIEF LITTLE HAWK was one of my main hopes for Royal Ascot after a very impressive debut at Navan but he completely bombed out and finished midfield. He couldn’t go the speed at Ascot and got rather outpaced and that was surprising considering he looked very quick at Navan the time before.
I am really interested in the fact that they are running him here again so quick, but if he can show anything like the form he did at Navan then it will take a good one to beat him.
He was very professional at Navan and that could stand him in good stead here. He will know his job from the outset and could make all the running and win impressively. The biggest danger is likely to be the Ger Lyons filly, Frenetic, who caught the eye when winning first time out. She will get a weight allowance from the colts and that could put her in contention.
7.15 DUBAI DUTY FREE IRISH DERBY (GROUP 1)
The feature of the weekend is upon us and, as normal, Aidan O’Brien holds an extremely strong hand in a very competitive race.
I was really taken by the run of SHERPA last time out behind Crossfirehurricane and it could be that Donnacha gets one over his dad and his brother in another excellent renewal of this race.
On form, Sherpa arrives into this race very unexposed and is stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time. If you take the run last time out at face value then Sherpa would have got very close to the winner with a little more luck in running. It was very eye-catching and the step up in trip looks sure to suit.
Does he deserve to be a double figure price? I would suggest not given that he should improve off the back of that run.
On breeding there is a slight doubt about stamina as he is quite speedily bred and related to the likes of Queen Titi, who got a mile well. He caught my eye last time out, though, and I am happy to take a chance on him here.
He should go close if his stamina holds out.
7.45 COMER GROUP INTERNATIONAL VINTAGE CROP STAKES (GROUP 3)
Vintage Crop was one of those legendary horses associated with the master of Rosewell House, Dermot Weld, and there is no doubt that Dermot will be looking to win this race named after his Melbourne Cup winner of 1993.
FALCON EIGHT is a fascinating contender for me based on the fact that some of the yard’s horses have improved from first to second run this season. His third behind Nickajack Cave in the “Saval Beg” was a very creditable run and the more I watch the race back, the more I see that he looked like he needed the run.
He travelled nicely and was pushed along as they turned for home before being slightly short of room and then flattening out up the straight. This horse has stamina in abundance, as we saw when he won at Sandown under Frankie Dettori last season.
While last year’s Irish Derby winner Sovereign makes his belated reappearance, I think they all might have to go some to get anywhere near Falcon Eight.