The Irish Derby takes centre stage at The Curragh this Saturday (15:45). As the Emerald Isle’s premier Classic, top colts from that country and Britain take part. This is our detailed preview of an absorbing renewal containing placed horses from the English equivalent at Epsom and those who swerved the race. Our Irish Derby preview has key details and stats that support your betting…
Irish Derby ratings topper – Mac Swiney
Officially, the best colt in the race is MAC SWINEY The handicapper has him on a mark of 118, giving Jim Bolger’s son of New Approach 3lb and upwards in hand on the field. Mac Swiney’s best form is on soft and even heavy ground, however. That’s not the forecast going at the time of writing.
Mac Swiney earned his lofty rating by winning the Irish 2000 Guineas under a prominent ride from Rory Cleary, just holding subsequent St James’s Palace Stakes winner and stable companion Poetic Flare. The form looks good based on that, but conditions at The Curragh that day were ideal.
Unless there is a lot of rain, which isn’t forecast, Mac Swiney won’t get his ground. If Kevin Manning, who is back on board, doesn’t ride him differently, then he’s also there to be shot at. Mac Swiney has to prove he can handle a sounder surface.
Gets the trip – Fernando Vichi
Only one horse in the Irish Derby field has won over the 1m 4f distance, and that’s FERNANDO VICHI. Representing the Donnacha O’Brien stable, he has posted improved efforts with each outing this season. After finishing down the field behind Bolshoi Ballet in two of Ireland’s recognised Derby trials, Fernando Vichi got his head in front in the Nijinsky Stakes at Leopardstown.
The form of that Listed contest has taken a couple of knocks, however. Both the runner-up and third home were beaten when well-fancied at Royal Ascot. It suggests that, although Fernando Vichi gets the trip, he may find it tough following-up now pitched into elite company and best odds of 25/1 with Bet365 reflect that.
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Stable to follow – Aidan O’Brien
Ballydoyle has sent out a record 14 Irish Derby winners starting in 1997. Half of those have come in the last 11 years, so Aidan O’Brien remains the dominant force. The stable saddles five runners here, however, so jockey bookings may be tips in themselves.
Ryan Moore is on High Definition but more on him in a moment. The stable second string is WORDSWORTH with long-time Ballydoyle number Seamie Heffernan back aboard. He has been tried over further and always been staying on at the finish.
Whether Wordsworth, reasonably prominent in the St Leger ante-post betting, has the speed to drop back in trip is the key question. Although disappointing when a beaten favourite in the Yeats Stakes at Navan and then again in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, his stamina is not in doubt. That makes 25/1 with BetVictor about Wordsworth potential each-way value.
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Come on for the run – High Definition
The one who should strip fitter for his last run is HIGH DEFINITION. He made his reappearance in the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York and took plenty of time to get going. High Definition was gaining on the re-opposing Hurricane Lane late on and only has a couple of lengths to find with the Godolphin runner over a furlong-and-a-half longer.
O’Brien originally intended for his charge to go to Epsom. However, plans changed late on with the Coolmore “lads” opting to save High Definition for this. The extra distance promises to suit based on the way that he has shaped throughout his three-race career. That also means High Definition is open to the most progress of arguably anything in the Irish Derby line-up.
After sole representative Bolshoi Ballet didn’t fire at Epsom, the Ballydoyle team will be desperate to lay a marker down in this. High Definition is the clear best of the O’Brien quintet with two late swoops at a mile as a juvenile, including the Group 2 Beresford Stakes. He should now be primed for his first assignment at the highest level. That is why High Definition is the 2/1 favourite with Betfair for Classic glory.
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Best of British – Lone Eagle
There are three raiders coming across the Irish Sea. The aforementioned Hurricane Lane went into the Epsom Derby unbeaten after landing the Dante, but then didn’t see the race out. That could either be because he doesn’t get this trip or he lost both fore shoes in the run.
We’ll come on to Mojo Star below. LONE EAGLE has only missed the frame once in six career starts for Martyn Meade. That came on his reappearance in what has proved to be one of the strongest renewals of the Sandown Classic Trial ever.
Lone Eagle could only finish fourth behind Alenquer and Adayar, the winners of the King Edward VII Stakes and Epsom Derby respectively. He has also turned the tables on the third home, Yibir, in the Listed 1m 3f Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood. After getting 10 furlongs as a two-year-old, he may be crying out for this trip. That’s why Lone Eagle is an 8/1 shot with William Hill for the Irish Derby.
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One to lay – Mojo Star
Maidens don’t win Classics, so the aforementioned MOJO STAR will write some story if he goes one better than at Epsom. He is zero from three, yet the Richard Hannon team aren’t daunted by sending him to the Emerald Isle. The horses that have finished in and around him in his first two starts have gone on to win.
However, there is a difference between landing a maiden or minor events and pattern company. Mojo Star may simply have acted on the unique undulations of Epsom Downs better than everything bar Adayar. How that form translates to a more conventional racetrack like The Curragh remains to be seen.
It’s for those reasons that Mojo Star looks far too short. He has to be a lay when ranging in fixed-odds prices of 5/1 down to 4/1 against horses with Group form to their names. There is just no value in backing a maiden in a race of this nature, but we wish the Hannon yard well.
2021 Irish Derby Shortlist
- ***** High Definition
- **** Lone Eagle
- E/W – Wordsworth