Jess's super year set for boost with Grandee success
Jessica Harrington has had a phenomenal year so far and bids to cause a major upset in today's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh with the largely unconsidered Grandee.
Gold Cup hero Sizing John was one of three winners for the Kildare-based trainer at the Cheltenham Festival in March and she continued her purple patch on home soil with victories at Punchestown, as well as landing the Irish Grand National with Our Duke in between.
Although considered a National Hunt trainer by trade, Harrington has proved just as adept on the Flat this year, enjoying notable success with the likes of Alpha Centauri, Brother Bear, Torcedor and Grandee himself, who was an impressive winner of Leopardstown's King George V Cup earlier in the month.
The three-year-old faces a major step up in class for today's Classic, but Harrington feels he deserves his place in the field.
"He stayed on really well at Leopardstown. It's a very big step up, but he's been in good form and he's improved with each run this year," she said.
"It's great to have a horse that's even good enough to run in the Irish Derby.
"If he could run into a place I'd be delighted with him."
Grandee is part of a nine-strong field headed by shock Epsom Derby hero Wings Of Eagles.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien has saddled a record 11 winners of the Irish Derby and Wings Of Eagles is, along with Capri, Douglas Macarthur, Taj Mahal and The Anvil, one of five Ballydoyle representatives in this year's renewal.
Padraig Beggy steered Wings Of Eagles to his surprise Epsom success, but is replaced by Ryan Moore this weekend.
Seamie Heffernan partners Capri, Donnacha O'Brien rides Douglas Macarthur, Wayne Lordan is booked to ride Taj Mahal and the trainer's daughter Ana O'Brien gets the leg up on The Anvil.
British hopes rest upon the shoulders of the John Gosden-trained Cracksman, who was just a length behind Wings Of Eagles when finishing third at Epsom.
Gosden, who broke his Irish Derby duck with Jack Hobbs in 2015, was quick to snap up the services of jockey Pat Smullen to replace the injured Frankie Dettori.
The Jim Bolger-trained Dubai Sand and Andre Fabre's French Derby runner-up Waldgeist complete the line-up.
Wings Of Eagles is the current 2-1 favourite with Paddy Power ahead of Waldgeist at 9-4 and Cracksman at 3-1, but the bookmaker reports solid support for Fabre's challenger.
Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: "It's always hard to dislodge an Aidan O'Brien-trained horse as favourite for the Irish Derby, especially when they've won the English equivalent.
"But we've seen more cash for Waldgeist and should the Curragh get any more rain, we're pretty sure the French raider will go off favourite, probably at around 15-8 or 2-1."