Murtagh hits heights on Cape of good hope
Normal transmission in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby was resumed at a sun-splashed Curragh yesterday as champion trainer Aidan O'Brien landed the country's Irish Classic for the fifth consecutive time with French Derby disappointment Cape Blanco.
For good measure, the master of Ballydoyle saddled the first three home as Johnny Murtagh recovered brilliantly from a first race fall to guide the Dante Stakes conqueror of Epsom hero Workforce to a game success over Midas Touch with Jan Vermeer a close third.
Behind the dominant O'Brien trio was Mark Johnston's supplemented Royal Ascot winner Monterosso, the medium of a sustained gamble to shade favouritism over Cape Blanco but unable to sustain his flattering challenge where it really mattered.
In the absence of Godolphin's Chabal due to the good to firm going, O'Brien saddled half of the 10-runner field and their habitual game plan of setting a proper, even pace with trail-blazing Bright Horizon and At First Sight worked a treat again.
Heading for home Colm |O'Donoghue aboard his Epsom fifth Midas Touch threw down the gauntlet when readily overtaking the pacemakers and assuming a lead that they were only to surrender inside the final furlong after a tight buckle.
“Into the straight I was still travelling pretty well on Cape Blanco,” 39-year-old Johnny Murtagh commented.
“While I wasn't confident, I thought we would win until maybe a moment a furlong down when Colm's horse picked up and went again.
“Once I got my fellow into top gear he put his head down, as Aidan said he would, and ran right to the line. These Galileos are brave and I'm just delighted to have won my fourth Irish Derby.
“The day didn't start well with that fall after Petronius Maximus jinked, lost his footing and crashed through the rails.
“Thankfully I felt okay after the doctors patched me up for a big day ahead that ended well.”
A mouth-watering rematch with Michael Stoute's Workforce in the “King George” at Ascot next month is a distinct possibility now even if connections were loath to commit Cape Blanco so soon to that all-aged event.
“We could look at Ascot next if all goes well in the meantime,” O'Brien explained as the 40-year-old thanked his staff for their contribution to his record eighth Irish Derby triumph in 14 renewals.
“I thought we had Cape Blanco back to his best during the week and just put a line through his French Derby run because for some reason he wasn't the horse we know at home over there, whether it was the travelling or the heat.”
The dominant son of Galileo, chosen by Murtagh three days earlier for this €1,250,000 event ahead of Epsom fourth Jan Vermeer, was bred in Tipperary by joint owner John Magnier's Fethard neighbour Des Vere Hunt and Jack Ronan and had been undefeated prior to his Chantilly blowout.
Back in rude health yesterday, Cape Blanco clocked two minutes, 28.6 seconds which was over two seconds faster than stable companion Fame And Glory on which Murtagh landed the odds 12 months ago on possibly a shade slower going.
Mark Johnston was disappointed that his supplementary entry Monterosso could only finish fourth, and the English trainer hinted that he would give him a little rest now before planning an autumn campaign.
“I have to be honest and say we didn't come to be fourth, we came wanting to win but at the same time there were no excuses,” stated the Middleham handler.
“Frankie (Dettori) said it was either a bridge too far or, hopefully, it just came a little bit too soon and there's more to come later in the year.”
Meanwhile, Newmarket trainer Jeremy Noseda's decision to bypass Royal Ascot and target the Railway Stakes instead with his Doncaster scorer Formosina reaped a handsome reward and maintained the fine strike-rate of the visitors to the Curragh yesterday.
Britain's champion jockey Ryan Moore, however, left it very late to secure a clear passage on the Footstepsinthesand colt, which responded bravely to catch the gambled-on Samuel Morse in the shadow of the post.
“I was watching with the owner Daniel Pittack from London and knew we were in trouble two down with Ryan unable to get out,” Noseda said. “But the run just came in time for him and our horse picked up well on the outer to nick it.”