The Curragh is the racecourse “Where Champions are Made” and many of those champions will be crowned at the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival (27-29 June).
The three-day meeting kicks-off on Thursday with the Tote Rockingham Handicap being the day one highlight. The fillies and mares then take centre stage on Friday in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes.
Saturday’s Irish Derby, the third Irish Classic of the season, is then set to be a fascinating rematch between the horses that finished first, second, and fourth in this year’s Epsom Derby.
Tote Rockingham Handicap (Thursday 7.45pm)
The Tote Rockingham Handicap is a Premier handicap run over 5 furlongs that is open to horses aged three and older. The 10-year-trends show that horses aged three to six have been successful, and the last eight winners were all beaten on their previous run. The lowest-priced winner has been 5/1, with five of the last 10 winners returned at double-figure offs of up to 20/1.
The return to form of the Jessica Harrington horses this week suggests this could be the time to back her Brick By Brick. This course and distance winner last won off a 1lb higher mark and he looked like his turn may not be far away when running well on his return to the track after nearly a year off.
Pretty Polly Stakes (Friday 5.25pm)
The Pretty Polly Stakes is a Group 1 Race for fillies and mares aged three and older that is run over 1 mile and 2 furlongs. Four-years-old have won half of the last 10 editions, with three-year-olds winning three, whilst one five-year-old, and one six-year-old have also been successful. Nine of the last 10 winners were drawn in stall-five or lower.
Minding was the lowest-priced winner at 1/5 in the last decade but, whilst favourites don’t have a brilliant record, the highest-priced winner was just 10/1. English-trained horses also have an excellent record with six wins in the last 10-years, whilst Aidan O’Brien has trained three of the four Irish winners in that period.
Just seven runners have been declared for the 2019 Pretty Polly Stakes and Aidan O’Brien has entered the four-year-old Magic Wand who ran well to be second at Royal Ascot. However, all of Aidan O’Brien’s four winners since 2007 have been three-year-olds. That suggests that this year’s Oaks runner-up Pink Dogwood could be the stable number one, unless O’Brien thinks Happen will improve significantly for the step-up in trip to 10-furlongs for the first time.
Iridessa is definitely bred to appreciate this new trip for trainer Joseph O’Brien, whilst Who’s Steph has been a model of consistency so far this season and could easily put it up to the favourites.
The two English raiders certainly can’t be ruled out either, though Worth Waiting needs to take another step forward. However, Wild Illusion has already proved herself a genuine Group 1 filly at 10-furlongs and she’s expected to be back to her best here after looking short of pace over 9-furlongs on her seasonal debut.
Irish Derby (Saturday 5.20)
The Irish Derby has a stunning roll of honour, many of whom have been dual-Derby winners such as Nijinsky, Shergar, Sinndar, whilst more recently Aidan O’Brien has saddled Camelot and Australia to complete the famous double.
Indeed, Aidan O’Brien has a truly remarkable record in the race, as he’s saddled 11 of the last 18 Irish Derby winners, four of whom had also won the Epsom Derby.
O’Brien could make that five dual-Derby winners if the 2019 Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck is successful, but it’s worth noting that Broome was the more fancied of the re-opposing Aidan O’Brien runners at Epsom. Reports that Ryan Moore will wide Anthony Van Dyck suggest he’s the more fancied of the pair, but Moore has yet to ride an Irish Derby winner.
The video of the 2019 Epsom Derby also suggests that Antony Van Dyck could have been a lucky winner, as Madhmoon was knocked all over the place in the straight and yet finished just half-a-length behind the winner.
On a track that has less quirks than Epsom, a clearer run for Madhmoon would give him every chance of exacting revenge and he’s fancied to come out on top, with the other runners having plenty to find on ratings.