Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Weekend
Trainer Mark Johnston is aiming for a big race double at the Curragh on Saturday with Dee Ex Bee heading the strong field of 12 in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and Marie’s Diamond set to take his chance in the Group 2 GAIN Railway Stakes on the same card.
Johnston’s Dee Ex Bee will renew rivalry with Aidan O’Brien’s Saxon Warrior in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby after they finished second and fourth in the Epsom Derby respectively and Johnston will also have to take on three O’Brien trained runners in the chief supporting race on the card.
O’Brien will saddle Land Force, North Wind and Van Beethoven in the hotly contested GAIN Railway Stakes which has been won by some high class horses in the past but only once by O’Brien since 2010.
Popular Irish sprinters Ardhoomey and Gordon Lord Byron will meet in the Dubai Duty Free Creekside Dash Stakes on Saturday’s card while in the Dubai Duty Free Celebration Stakes the Aidan O’Brien-trained St Patrick’s Day is set to make his eagerly awaited debut for the powerful Ballydoyle stable.
Aidan O’Brien’s Epsom Oaks heroine Forever Together goes in search of a second prestigious Group 1 this season when heading the field for Sunday’s Group 1 Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes.
The three-year-old will step up against older rivals, Ubran Fox and Turret Rocks in the €250,000 fillies contest in which O’Brien also saddles Bye Bye Baby and Athena.
“Everything has gone well and according to plan with Forever Together since Epsom and we are looking forward to letting her run in the Pretty Polly Stakes on Sunday,” O’Brien said. “Bye Bye Baby ran at Epsom with her and she’ll also run and Athena seems to have come out of Royal Ascot well so she’ll also take her chance.”
The William Haggas-trained Urban Fox will bid to make it successive wins in the Pretty Polly Stakes for British-trained runners while Fozzy Stack will be dreaming of a big race double with Carlo Biraghi in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and Harvestofheworld representing him in the Pretty Polly Stakes on Sunday.
Gordon Elliott’s Royal Ascot winner Pallasator is declared to run in the Group 2 Comer Group International Curragh Cup. The Qatar Racing owned nine-year-old won the Queen Alexandra Stakes last week and will be ridden by champion jockey Colin Keane. Willie McCreery’s Bloomfield and the O’Brien trio of Flag Of Honour, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Victory Salute make this a fascinating contest.
Jim Bolger’s classy son of Sea The Stars, Stellar Mass is declared to make his seasonal debut in the Group 3 Finlay Volvo International Stakes on Sunday. Six runners have been declared for that contest with Yucatan and Clear Skies representing Aidan O’Brien while Reckless Gold will run for his son, Joseph. The Ger Lyons-trained Tennessee Wildcat and Denis Hogan’s Allegio complete the field.
A talented group of juveniles will take each other on in Sunday’s first pattern race with seven declared for the Group 3 Grangecon Stud Stakes. Joseph O’Brien won the race as a jockey on Bye Bye Birdie for his father in 2013 but aims to beat him as a trainer when saddling Fairyhouse winner Cava against Ballydoyle’s Fleeting, Fire Fly and So Perfect. Willie McCreery’s impressive Naas winner Lethal Promise is another talented inclusion in the fillies race.
It is 35 years since any horse completed the G2 King Edward VII Stakes / G1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby double.
The Michael Stoute-trained Shareef Dancer, in the colours of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum, was ridden to victory in both in 1983 by Walter Swinburn.
Prior to that, only English Prince, trained by Peter Welwyn and ridden by Yves Saint-Martin, had managed to land the two three-year-old races in question, in 1974.
On Saturday, Godolphin’s Old Persian will attempt to emulate those stars of yesteryear when he backs up only eight days after his triumph in the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot.
He is one of 12 runners in this year’s Irish Derby, and trainer Charlie Appleby is hopeful of a big run from the son of Dubawi.
“He has pleased me since his win at Royal Ascot,” Appleby said.
“He is a colt with a progressive profile and the fact that the ‘win and you are in the Irish Derby’ clause was attached to the King Edward VII made us take a close look at it.
“It’s quite a quick turnaround, but we have been monitoring him closely all week, and I can report he is very well. He has eaten up, and he has regained the weight he lost running at Ascot.
“Physically, he has done very well. Both Saxon Warrior and Dee Ex Bee are the two to fear,” he added.
William Buick, who won the 2015 Irish Derby on Jack Hobbs, will be aboard Old Persian again.
The reason the King Edward VII / Irish Derby has been completed so rarely is the close proximity of the two races — it is rarely attempted — although three decades ago there was a bigger gap than eight days.
Dee Ex Bee carries the distinctive silver colours of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince Of Dubai. Knight To Behold finished 11th at Epsom after making the running. He had previously won the Listed Lingfield Derby Trial.
The Jim Bolger-trained Twilight Payment makes his second start of 2018 in the G2 Curragh Cup over a mile and six furlongs at the Curragh, Ireland, on Sunday, 1 July.
The five-year-old son of Teofilo, a Listed winner in 2016, finished second on his seasonal reappearance, running well to come home three quarters of a length behind multiple G1 scorer Order Of St George in the Listed Saval Beg Levmoss Stakes over a mile and six furlongs at Leopardstown on 25 May.
Twilight Payment was placed in all five Listed and G3 starts in 2017 before ending the year with sixth in the G1 Irish St Leger at the Curragh in September.
Kevin Manning again takes the ride on Twilight Payment.
The six other Curragh Cup starters include recent Queen Alexandra Stakes winner Pallasator and G2 King Edward VII Stakes third Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Jim Bolger commented: “Twilight Payment is very well at the moment. “He always runs well and we are expecting his usual good performance on Sunday at the Curragh.”