Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

O’Brien mighty in Irish Classic

Epsom victor Sea The Stars could face another stern challenge from a renewed posse of Ballydoyle colts if trainer John Oxx opts to saddle his stable star for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby later this month.

The late Vincent O’Brien’s Triple Crown hero Nijinsky was the last horse to take the English Guineas and Derby as well as the premier Irish Classic in 1970.

The three-day Derby Festival was launched at the K Club last night with Aidan O’Brien confirming he expects to be represented again by several runners in a bid to extend his domination of the event.

“We feel it’s very important to support the Irish Derby well. Dubai Duty Free are among our major sponsors here now and we could have the six that ran at Epsom in the mix along with a couple of our maiden winners, without putting a number on our likely runners yet,” explained the Ballydoyle supremo.

While Sunday’s French Derby third Westphalia may be held in reserve for the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown the following weekend, the champion trainer is happy with the current condition of his Epsom sextet.

“They are all back home fresh and well. We will just have to see how they progress as we will be looking to have runners in all the big races at that time — our Derby, the Eclipse and the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris,” O’Brien said.

No doubt he will be interested along with colleague Oxx, racing’s professionals and followers to learn that the Turf Club’s senior flat handicapper Garry O’Gorman has given Sea The Stars a revised mark of 124.

That’s the same rating as Jim Bolger’s New Approach was accorded after his English Derby victory a year ago before ending his career in the 130s band after a runaway success in the English Champion Stakes.

Runner-up Fame And Glory which was tasting defeat for the first time last Saturday is now on 120, a mere 1lb ahead of fellow Ballydoyle inmates Masterofthehorse (third) and Rip Van Winkle which was a nose away in fourth.

Although O’Gorman says he’s ‘confident Sea The Stars will progress into the 130s’, he concedes that the 124 rating is ‘an average Derby-winning figure.’

“But it’s based more on the proximity of the horses he beat than the merit of his performance.

“I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t the top-rated horse in the world by the end of 2009,” added the former lawyer.

Sariska, on which Tipperary’s former champion jockey Jamie Spencer took the Epsom Oaks last Friday, as well as the previous year’s winner Look Here, Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Again and multiple Group 1 scorer Lush Lashes could all clash at the Curragh on the eve of the Derby in what would be a mouth-watering renewal of the Audi Pretty Polly Stakes.

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