Horse racing’s primary focus this weekend will be on Ireland. The three-day Irish Derby Festival began on Friday. The Pretty Polly, a Group I race for distaffers, is the feature on Saturday. Sunday’s main event is the Irish Derby.
The Derby Festival is being held at the Curragh, a racecourse about 50 miles outside of Dublin. Curragh is in beautiful open country. There is a convenient bus connection from the Dublin City Centre. A train service is available on race days from Huston, a train station in the heart of Dublin. The train takes you to Kildare from where free shuttle buses take you to the course. From Dublin City Centre, it takes a little over an hour to reach the Curragh.
The Friday card is run late in the afternoon. The first race was run at 5 55 PM and the seventh and final race was at 9 05 PM. Friday’s feature was the Ballygallon Stud Stakes, a race for freshman girls over 1200 metres, and it was won by Seeharn, a 3-1 chance. Seeharn, an impressive winner in her debut at the Curragh in early June, is trained by Kevin Pendergast and ridden by Declan McDonogh. Seeharn’s next race will be in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
Nine ladies go to post in the Pretty Polly, Saturday’s key contest. It is a 2000-metre race on the grass (all races at the Curragh are on the grass) and one of the fancied runners is Remember When, a maiden from Aidan O’Brien’s stable. A John Murtagh mount, Remember When has been keeping high class company. She was third in the Irish 1000 Guineas and again third in the Epsom Oaks. Akdarena was sixth in the Oaks at Epsom and takes her chances. Flying Cloud, a winner at Royal Ascot in 2009, ran third behind Sariska and Midday at York last time out and is a player in the Pretty Polly.
Chinese White, from Dermot Weld’s yard, was a distant third to Fame And Glory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. Fame And Glory got an encore in the Coronation Cup on Oaks day at Epsom. Chinese White’s form is on the bright side. Pat Smullen, who leads in the jockey standings in Ireland, will be aboard Chinese White.
Eleven sophomores will run in the Group Irish Derby on Sunday. Five of them come from Aidan O’Brien’s barn who seeks his fifth consecutive win in the Derby. In 2006, Dylan Thomas won as an odds on favorite. Soldier of Fortune won in 2007 and was not the best fancied among the O’Brien runners. In 2008, Frozen Fire landed long odds. In 2009, Fame And Glory justified favoritism in the hands of John Murtagh.
Cape Blanco suffered his first loss in the French Derby at Chantilly on June 6. In the betting, Cape Blanco is the market leader because of John Murtagh being on board. In the Dante at York, a prep race for the Epsom Derby, Cape Blanco gave a thrashing to the somewhat green Workforce. The latter won the Derby drawing away on June 5. John Murtagh has expressed optimism. “It was a tough decision for me between Cape Blanco and Jan Vermeer. In France, Cape Blanco was bumped and did not get into his stride. His Dante form looks very good. I hope I have made the right call, “ Murtagh said.
Monterosso broke the duck at Lingfield in January. A Mark Johnston pupil, Monterosso won the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot over 2400 metres. In the Derby, Frankie Dettori will continue the partnership. Rising optimism has prompted Monterosso’s owner, Sheikh Mohammed’s son, to supplement the colt to the Irish Derby at a cost of 150,000 Euros. Trainer Johnston said, “Monterosso is showing all the right signs since Ascot. Everything is perfect, touch wood.”
The other Godolphin runner is Chabal who will have the riding services of Kieren Fallon. Chabal, a disappointment in York’s Dante, will run only if ground is suitable. Dublin has been going through a dry spell. Watering is being done.
Jim Bolger has two runners. They are Carraiglawn and Puncher Clynch. Coordinated Cut, who has not fulfilled his promise, represents trainer Michael Bell. David Simcock saddles Dubawi Phantom.
Colm O’Donoghue rides Midas Touch. Seamus Heffernan will be on Jan Vermeer. Joe O’Brien (Aidan’s son) and Sean Levey will be the other riders for Ballydoyle. At First Sight and Bright Horizon complete the O’Brien quintet.
My pick is Monterosso. He has more to find but what he needs to do is well within his reach. His King Edward VII win was impressively gained. It will be two runs over 2400 metres in nine days but I believe that Monterosso is a youngster who thrives on racing. Dettori is having a productive campaign and his riding form is more than satisfactory.
Let us move to America. Belmont Park will have the Grade I Mother Goose (fillies and mares) as its feature on Saturday. Belmont Park is readily accessible by train from Penn Station in New York City. It is a walk that may take not more than ten minutes from the station to the track entrance. You walk in a sheltered environment. Belmont is big beyond imagination. It is in Long Island, a tourist attraction in the summer. Devil May Care, a filly who was 10th in the Kentucky Derby, is favored to return to winning ways. The Mother Goose, a race Rachel Alexandra won last year, carries a $250,000 purse and is over 1700 metres on the dirt track. John Velasquez rides Devil May Care who faces four adversaries. Two stablemates of Devil May Care, Ailalea and Katy Now, oppose. Connie and Michael and Biofuel round out the five-runner field.
The $100,000 Beverly Hills Handicap is the big race at Hollywood Park on Saturday. General Consensus, a Rafael Bejarano mount, has been chasing Tuscan Evening in Graded events this year. The 2000-metre trip (turf) should pose no problems for General Consensus. Eight run.
Peter Gallagher, trainer of General Consensus, expressed satisfaction. “She seems to be consistent and holding her form. She is getting better every time.”
In 2010, there will be 65 ‘you win and you’re win’ races that ensure berths for winners in the Breeders’ Cup races. There are three races in Europe that have been added to the list this year. The Group I Prix Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at Deauville (headquarters for summer racing in France) on August 15 will be a conspicuous addition. The winner will go in the BC Mile.
The Group I Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh on September 11 is another. The winner gets a berth in the Juvenile Turf.
The final race is the Group II Qatar Prix Niel on September 12 at Longchamp. At stake is a berth in the BC Turf.
There will be 51 races in the US and 14 are from England, France, Ireland, Australia and Hong Kong.
There is a lot action in England on Saturday. The Northumberland Plate is a big betting race at Newcastle. It is a two-mile race.
The temperature at Dublin is about 19 degrees at 1 P M Saturday. I hope the big guns stay in the hunt for Sunday’s Derby. Cape Blanco is getting the most money. Monterosso has a lot of friends.
I am 67 years old today. There is a lot of travel ahead before I come to India. There is a possibility I will be in India in early December.